Don't Let a Missing Tooth Hold You Back in Life

FAQs About Dental Crowns

by Wyatt Morgan

If you have decayed enamel, your dentist might recommend that you get a crown (also called a "cap"). If you've never had a crown placed before, you might have some questions. Read on to learn more about dental crowns.

What's the Difference Between Other Restorations and Crowns?

If you just have a small amount of decay in a tooth, your dentist can drill it out and place a filling, like with composite or silver amalgam.

In some cases, however, you may not be a good candidate for a filling if the cavity is too large. When a cavity is too large, a dentist might opt for an inlay or an onlay. These restorations are fabricated as a single solid piece of material (e.g. gold) and cemented onto the enamel.

When the damage to a tooth is too extensive for either a filling or an inlay/onlay, you'll have to opt for a crown. The crown is placed over the entire tooth after your dentist removes the decay.

Why Would You Want a Crown Instead of Just Extracting the Damaged Tooth?

When you chew or bite, those forces travel through your tooth roots and strengthen your jawbone's density. If a tooth is extracted, then there are no tooth roots to stimulate the jawbone; and, you can lose density through bone resorption. Although a lot of your enamel will be removed during a crown placement, the good news is that you get to keep your natural tooth and its roots, meaning that your jaw bone won't atrophy.

What is the Procedure Like?

It usually takes two appointments to complete the entire process. Your first appointment may last about an hour or less depending on how much decay needs to be removed. Your doctor will use an anesthetic to numb up the area of the mouth with the damaged tooth. Once you are numb, then the doctor will use a high-speed handpiece to remove the decay.

He or she will then take an impression of your enamel. This impression is sent to a dental lab where dental technicians will fabricate the final crown. In the meantime, your dentist will place a temporary crown onto the prepped enamel since it may take a few weeks for the final crown to be fabricated. The temporary crown is made of a softer material, like acrylic, so it's important to be gentle when eating so that you don't break the crown. Once the final restoration is made, your dentist will cement it in place at your second appointment.

Why is a Temporary Crown Necessary?

First, your dentist doesn't want bacteria and debris to irritate the site, so a temporary crown is vital to protect the prepped enamel. Second, believe it or not, your prepped tooth can shift slightly since it will be smaller and will no longer have contact points with adjacent teeth. If the prepped tooth shifts, then your final crown may not fit correctly and a new impression will have to be taken.

Contact a dentist in your area for more information on dental crowns.