A dental crown is a cover that goes over a tooth. Cosmetic dentists use it to hide damage or imperfections on teeth. Also known as caps, these restorations are designed to look like real teeth, so they look natural when cemented to teeth.
Crowns can be used to fix a variety of aesthetic issues like stains, discoloration, chipped teeth and broken teeth, just to name a few. Covering a tooth with a crown also leads to restorative benefits, as it replaces the function of the lost tooth. Crowns are made to be able to withstand the tremendous bite forces experienced when chewing.
How dental crowns are used by cosmetic dentists
Factors like the patient’s budget and the location of the tooth being repaired often determine the type of crown recommended to each patient. Some of the common reasons why a dentist might decide to cement a crown to a patient’s tooth include:
- To cover up the discoloration caused by tooth decay and to prevent the tooth from breaking apart
- To restore the appearance of a chipped, fractured or broken tooth
- To cover up teeth that will be used as abutments for a dental bridge
- To hide deformities and discoloration that cannot be eliminated with whitening treatments
- To protect teeth that have been treated with root canal therapy and to restore their appearance
Crowns can be made from a variety of materials like metal alloys, composite resin or porcelain. Porcelain crowns lead to the best aesthetics thanks to the shared similarities they have with teeth like their translucence and natural white color.
The material used to make a crown determines how natural it looks and its durability. Metal crowns tend to be the most durable, but they do not blend in with the rest of the patient’s teeth. They are rarely used by cosmetic dentists to cover up visible front teeth due to their poor aesthetics, but they are well-suited for teeth in the back of the mouth that are not seen when the patient smiles. The types of crowns commonly used in cosmetic dentistry include:
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal: These types of crowns are more durable than crowns made completely out of porcelain. Metal alloys are used to make the crown’s base, increasing its durability and strength. The remaining part of the crown is made from porcelain, which can be color-matched with the color of the patient’s teeth. These crowns are great for restoring the appearance of teeth, but dark lines might begin to form at the base of the crown over time
- Composite resin crowns: These crowns are made from mixtures of plastics and glass. They can be matched with the color of the patient’s teeth, and they lead to decent aesthetics. Composite crowns are often the most affordable option, but they are also more prone to staining and chipping
- Porcelain/ceramic crowns: These crowns are popular with cosmetic dentists, as they lead to the best aesthetics. Porcelain is biocompatible, and it is often the safest option for people with metal allergies. They are great for front teeth and are durable enough to be used to cover up teeth in the back of the mouth
The role of temporary crowns
The process of getting a crown often involves wearing a temporary crown for about two weeks. These are used to protect teeth that have been prepared for crowns by having enamel removed from their sides. These temporary crowns are often made out of stainless steel or acrylic-based materials, and they can be made at the clinic. They are bonded to teeth using temporary dental cement.
Variations of crowns
Onlays are a type of dental crown that are used to restore teeth that are too damaged to be rebuilt with fillings. Onlays are typically made in a dental lab, just as is the case with traditional crowns. The onlay only covers a portion of a tooth, unlike a crown that covers the entire visible part.
Onlays are cemented into place with dental cement like crowns. Less enamel is removed from the patient’s tooth when fitting an onlay compared to a crown.
How crowns are fitted to teeth
The process of getting a crown starts with the dentist preparing the affected tooth for the restoration. Enamel is shaved off all sides of the tooth, so the crown fits snugly. A shot of a local anesthetic is administered during the process, so the patient does not feel any pain as the dentist works on their teeth.
Once the tooth has been prepared, an impression of it is taken by having the patient bite down on a mold. Digital images can also be used to make a 3D model of the prepared tooth. The model is passed on to a dental lab that makes crowns. It takes around two weeks for the customized crown to get back to the dentist.
The dentist finishes the installation during a second appointment when the customized crown is ready. The temporary crown is removed, and the customized crown is fitted on the tooth. Adjustments and alterations are made as needed until the dentist is satisfied with how the patient looks.
Life with dental crowns
Dental crowns can last up to 15 years when the patient practices good oral hygiene. Factors like how well the patient takes care of their mouth and the type of wear and tear the restoration is exposed to affect its longevity. Habits like chewing on fingernails, teeth grinding and opening packages with teeth can also reduce the longevity of crowns.
Crowns do not require any form of special maintenance. Good oral hygiene, avoiding bad habits and biannual visits to a dentist are all that is needed to keep these restorations in great condition. Good oral hygiene includes brushing teeth a minimum of twice each day, flossing once per day and rinsing the mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash.
Crowns are great for your smile
Crowns blend in with the rest of your teeth, making them a great way to fix issues like discolored, deformed or damaged teeth. The crown restores the aesthetics of your damaged tooth while protecting it against further damage.
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