What are Dental Crowns?
Crowns are a type of dental restoration which, when cemented into place, fully cup over the portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line. In comparison, fillings are dental restorations that fill in or cover over just a portion of a tooth. Since crowns encase the entire visible aspect of a tooth, a dental crown in effect becomes the tooth's new outer surface.
Crowns can be made out of porcelain (meaning some sort of dental ceramic), metal (a gold or other metal alloy), or a combination of both. Other terms that are used to refer to dental crowns are "dental caps" and "tooth caps."
Why do teeth need dental crowns?
A dentist might recommend placing a dental crown for a variety of reasons but, in general, most of these reasons will usually fall within one of the following basic categories:
- To restore a tooth to its original shape.
- To strengthen a tooth.
- To improve the cosmetic appearance of a tooth.
How can dental crowns be used to restore a tooth's shape?
Since a dental crown that has been cemented into place essentially becomes the new outer surface for the tooth it is easy to imagine how the placement of a crown can restore a tooth to its original shape. Dental crowns are routinely made for teeth that have broken, worn excessively, or else have had large portions destroyed by tooth decay.
Dental crowns, however offer your dentist a big advantage over dental fillings by way of the fact that they are fabricated "away from your mouth." By this we simply mean that dental crowns are fabricated in a dental laboratory (by a dental technician using plaster molds your teeth). Dental fillings, in comparison, are created "in your mouth" by way of your dentist placing the filling material directly upon your tooth.
When a dental crown is made the dental laboratory technician can visualize and examine all aspects of your bite and jaw movements, from a variety of angles, and then sculpt your crown so it has the perfect anatomy. In comparison, when a dentist places a dental filling they have far less control over the final outcome of the shape of your tooth because it is often difficult for them to visualize, evaluate, and access to the tooth on which they are working.
How can dental be used to improve the cosmetic appearance of teeth?
Since a dental crown serves to cup over and encase the visible portion of a tooth, any dental crown that has a porcelain surface can be used as a means to idealize the cosmetic appearance of a tooth. Possibly you have heard it rumored (especially in past decades) that certain movie stars have had their teeth "capped." This simply means that the person has obtained their "Hollywood smile" by way of having crowns placed.
Actually, getting your teeth "capped" just to improve their cosmetic appearance can at times be a very poor choice. Crowns are best utilized as a way to improve the cosmetic appearance of a tooth when the crown simultaneously serves other purposes also, such as restoring a tooth to its original shape (repairing a broken tooth) or strengthening a tooth (covering over a tooth that has a very large filling).
In general, a dental crown probably should not be used as a means to improve the appearance of a tooth if there is any other alternative dental treatment that could equally satisfactorily achieve the same cosmetic results. This is because a dentist must grind a significant portion of a tooth away when a dental crown is made. If a more conservative dental procedure could equally well improve the tooth's appearance, such as a porcelain veneer, dental bonding, lumineers, dental bonding, or even just whitening the teeth, then it is usually best to consider that treatment option first.
Note: A dental bridge is the connection of several crowns and the length of the bridge will depend of the area to be fixed: A molar tooth is pulled and is going to be replace with a dental bridge, three crowns will be needed to fix the problem, two crowns function as the anchors and another will replace the missing tooth.
How are crowns attached to your teeth?
Dr. Hernandez will make an impression of the tooth and a dental laboratory will create the crown. You will typically leave the office with a temporary crown to wear while the permanent crown is being made - this can take a few days. The permanent crown is then cemented onto your tooth. Crowns usually last ten to fifteen years or more.