Many people have heard of dental crowns, but not many people know what they actually are – and what they do.
Interestingly, dental crowns play an important role in securing a tooth that is at risk of breaking, and they also provide numerous cosmetic benefits.
In this installment of #AskDrCurrie, we uncover everything you need to know about dental crowns.
What is a dental crown?
A crown, also known as a cap, is a covering for a tooth.
A crown is something you would put over a broken tooth, or a tooth with a large filling – because fillings only work up to a certain size. Once the filling is more than 50% of the tooth, you risk the tooth breaking. So once you reach the 50% threshold, the tooth will need a crown.
Crowns are also used to help patients that suffer from cracked tooth syndrome – covering up the tooth is the only way to fix the issue. Crowns can also be used when a patient has a root canal because the tooth is weaker.
There are also aesthetic reasons for placing a crown. For instance, a crown can be a suitable solution for a tooth that is discoloured, worn, or short.
How does a dental crown work?
Technically, you would reduce the filling in the tooth – remove some of the filling to create space for the crown to fit over the top of the tooth.
You are typically taking off about 1.5 millimeters to create space on the tooth. From there, we take a mould and send it to the lab – which is where the crown is made.
There is some interesting technology in the field of dentistry as 3D milling machines can take a digital scan of the tooth, and the machine will cut it. As of right now, those 3D milling machines are on their 3rd or 4th generation, but they aren’t quite as accurate as what is produced in a lab quite yet.
There is absolutely no doubt that everything will be 3D scanned and milled at some point in the future. But in my mind, the final crown from the 3D milling technique hasn’t surpassed traditional crown strength and fit – but it won’t be long.
You can make crowns out of porcelain, gold, zirconia. There are materials now where it will look completely natural. You can do custom shades and staining to make it totally imprecentable to the eye – exactly the same as your other teeth.
How do you know if you need a dental crown?
Dental crowns are preventative. So typically, patients don’t know they need it.
A crown is usually used to prevent a tooth from breaking. So oftentimes, people don’t believe they need a crown until it’s too late. From the patients perspective, they feel OK. So if they don’t recognize a problem, it’s hard to understand why a crown would be needed.
So here’s an analogy…
Think of a dental crown in the same context as cholesterol. You don’t feel cholesterol – but it’s there. So you change your eating habits and patterns to adjust your cholesterol levels to prevent a broader issue. You may not feel any changes, but if you make the appropriate changes it will be corrected. And why do people choose to correct it? Because if they don’t, a much bigger problem could occur.
Similarly, a crown will eliminate risk. If the patient has a tooth that is at risk and they choose to avoid having a crown placed, it could break and turn into a much bigger problem. Conversely, if a crown is placed it will prevent larger problems in the future.
What problems does a dental crown solve?
Preventing a tooth from breaking, fixing a tooth that is already broken, and it can certainly help with cosmetic – i.e colouring, shape, size.
Tooth discolouration is definitely a big reason for cosmetic procedures. It is typically caused by trauma to the tooth in younger years, and discolouration can happen gradually so it’s not noticeable at first.
What’s the outcome of having a dental crown?
On average, the process to get a crown is about 10 – 14 days.
The first appointment is a bit longer when you shave the tooth, generate the mould, and provide a temporary crown. This is important to cover the tooth and protect it.
Your dentist will make the temporary crown chairside. The patient bites into putty, the tooth is shaved, then you would inject acrylic into the crown area to provide a temporary solution.
About a week later, you have a much shorter appointment, and no freezing involved. The temporary crown is removed and the permanent is attached with cement. People can go about their day immediately – no pain at all.
What do you say to people that are nervous about the procedure?
If you are having a dental crown placed, it is being done to prevent a bigger problem in the future. So it’s important to remember that.
Having said that, some patients are generally uncomfortable at the dentist. Perhaps they do not like the sound of dental equipment, or maybe they had a negative experience at another dental practise.
At Pearl Dental, we always take great care to ensure our patients are comfortable. For some people, that means talking through the procedure and putting their mind at ease. For others, it could mean oral sedatives to help ease tension. Whatever the case may be, we support our patients to ensure they have a comfortable and pleasant experience.
For additional information, please contact Pearl Dental or give us a call at 905-637-1698.