Dental Crowns: Your Most Common Questions Answered

A dental crown, sometimes known as a tooth crown or tooth cap, is a cap that is placed on top of a damaged tooth or teeth. They are used by dentists to protect, cover, and restore the shape of your teeth. Once in place, a dental crown typically doesn’t require any specific care other than regular good oral hygiene.

Why do you need a crown on a tooth?

Over time, your teeth can get damaged. This can be one off incidents like a chipped tooth for example or simply the cause of decay over time. Injuries, or long-term causes like decay, can cause your teeth to lose shape and/or size. This can cause you further issues with food and other bacteria able to lodge itself in newly formed gaps or holes in your teeth and need to be tackled.

Whilst a filling is often the first option a dentist will use to tackle a cavity in your tooth, sometimes the decay or injury can be so severe that a filling will not suffice. In these cases, a dental crown is often the best long-term solution.

A dental crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” that can be placed over your tooth or teeth. These tooth caps can be moulded to fit the exact gap that is required and sits as a snug little cap over the existing tooth once this has been shaped.

The dental crown will restore your tooth’s shape, size, strength, and appearance, helping to ensure the long-term health of your teeth are not compromised.

How long does it take to get a tooth crown?

The typical process for creating a moulding a crown for your teeth would be 2-3 weeks, however, thanks to the adoption of CAD/CAM technology, we are able to offer same-day dental crowns at Hamilton Dental Centre.

The traditional process of fitting a crown would involve physical impressions of a tooth being taken. These would then get sent to a lab for production all of which could take anywhere from 2-3 weeks.

Today, however, with the use of CAD/CAM technology, that process has now been digitised with 3D scans and virtual designs used in conjunction with state-of-the-art milling machines that can create tooth crowns from a single piece of ceramic, quick enough to have your new crowns ready and fitted in a day.

Read more about our same-day dental crowns.

What are tooth crowns made of?

Dental crowns can be made from a variety of materials. The most commonly used material at Hamilton Dental Centre is ceramic, however, these are some examples of the types of material than can be used to create a dental crown:

All-Ceramic – the reason ceramic is commonly used for dental crowns is that it provides the best natural colour match to your teeth compared to other materials. They are also a popular choice for people with metal allergies. Whilst they are popular, they are not typically as strong as porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns, which also provide a good colour match for your teeth. Ceramic can be used for front or back teeth, however, they are seen more often for front teeth for aesthetic reasons.

All-Porcelain – similar to ceramic tooth caps, porcelain is another good choice thanks to the ability to colour match to your natural teeth. All-porcelain dental crowns as common, however, today, many dentists prefer to go with a porcelain-fused-to-metal crown as these offer more strength.

Metal – many different types of metal can be used to create dental crowns and the most typical we see have a high content of gold or platinum, or base-metal alloys such as cobalt-chromium or nickel-chromium. As you might imagine, metal crowns are a long-lasting solution that are resistant to biting and chewing without wearing down and they rarely chip or break. The colour, and high price of the materials, however, can be a barrier and they are more typically used in the back teeth rather than the front.

Porcelain-fused-to-metal – as we have already mentioned, porcelain-fused-to-metal is becoming an increasingly popular option for tooth crowns as they offer the strength and durability of a metal crown and the ability to colour match to the adjacent teeth thanks to the porcelain. There can be some drawbacks. Sometimes the metal can show through underneath the porcelain as a dark line and there is also the risk that the porcelain part of the crown may chip off or break. They are, however, a good choice for both front and back teeth.

All-Resin – these are typically a cheaper option than other types of dental crown, however they are more liable to wearing down over time and much more susceptible to getting chipped or breaking.

Does getting a crown hurt?

Getting a dental crown fitted should be a virtually painless experience and it is much more likely that you will feel more discomfort from whatever is causing the need for a crown than getting the crown fitted itself.

Your mouth will be numbed before any fitting and other than a little bit of discomfort for a couple of days after as you get used to the new crown in your mouth, the process from start to finish should be relatively pain-free.

How long do dental crowns last?

Depending on the material used to create the dental crown, they last on average between five to 15 years. As well as the material used, the amount of wear and tear on the crown will also dictate how long it will last and this will depend on where in your mouth you have a tooth crown fitted.

Your own dental hygiene practices will also be a determining factor in how long your dental crown will last as well as your mouth-related habits. Mouth-related habits can include things like grinding or clenching your teeth (this may be at night whilst you sleep), chewing ice, biting your fingernails, or opening packets with your teeth.

It is important to take all these things into consideration when choosing the material for your dental crown to make sure you select the material that will not only look good, but also provide you with the best long-term solution.

Is a dental crown worth it?

If you are having persistent issues with your teeth or you have sustained an injury that has led to a chipped or cracked tooth, a dental crown can be a very worthwhile solution. Whilst a filling may be an option for some injuries or on-going issues with your tooth, a dental crown is a long-term solution that adds strength, durability, and functionality to your natural teeth.

Whilst the upfront cost may be more than other alternatives, it is best to think of the longer-term benefits of a tooth crown and you can talk to your dentist about this during your consultation.

Are there alternatives to dental crowns?

The cost of a dental crown can be off-putting to some people and there are some alternatives that you can discuss with your dentist. These alternatives can include:

Dental Inlays – this is a procedure that can be carried out if the damage to the tooth is located only at the top of the tooth, also known as the cusp. A mould of the tooth will be taken, and the inlay will be permanently bonded into place.

Dental Onlays – dental onlays are the next step on from an inlay but not as comprehensive as a dental crown and this involves adding an onlay, typically made from porcelain, over the entire top of your tooth but not covering the whole tooth.

Extraction – in some cases, the best course of action may be to remove the tooth altogether. Depending on where the tooth sits in the mouth and the issues you are having, it can sometimes be the best course of action and a crown can always be installed retrospectively.

What is the difference between a tooth cap and a tooth crown?

A commonly asked question we see is people asking about the difference between a tooth cap and a tooth crown and the simple answer is that there is no difference. Dental crown, tooth crown, or tooth caps are all referring to the same procedure so feel free to use whatever term you are most comfortable with.

Conclusion

Dental crowns are a very common treatment at Hamilton Dental Centre, and they can be carried out either on the same-day or using the more traditional method. Talk to your dentist if you want to learn more about dental crowns and the options available to you.

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