A dental crown (also known as a “cap”) is a restoration that we use when a tooth is no longer a good candidate for a traditional filling and when we need to restore and protect teeth that have undergone endodontic treatment (root canal). There are many types of materials that we can use for crowns, and we will discuss some of these materials below.
A dental crown usually takes approximately two visits to make. At the first appointment we prepare (shape) the tooth for the crown, replace any missing tooth structure with materials that are similar to the ones we use when bonding teeth, and we take a mold. You will leave the office with a temporary crown in place, and when you return for the second visit, we will cement the crown with definitive cement.
The materials we use in crowns depends upon the clinical situation. Generally speaking, PFM crowns (porcelain-fused-to-metal) are the workhorse of dental crown types and have been used successfully for decades; these crowns are especially well-suited for back teeth. While you can use a PFM crown in the front, improved ceramic technology allows us to fabricate what are known as all-ceramic crowns, which we use in clinical situations when esthetics are critical.
There are many different types of materials that we can use when a patient needs to have a dental crown placed. In clinical situations where esthetics are paramount, we can take advantage of newer ceramic improvements and fabricate what are known as all-ceramic crowns. Ceramic crowns are lifelike and have coloring and light reflecting properties that more resemble natural teeth. Plus, because the crowns are all-ceramic and have no metal, you will never see “black lines” around the edges like you would in an older-style Porcelain-Fused to Metal (PFM Crown).
One of the disadvantages of PFM crowns is that because they are built upon a layer of metal and don’t reflect light very well, they are not the ideal solution for crowns in highly esthetic areas such as the front of the mouth. Because there is no metal foundation in a ceramic crown, color matching of ceramic crowns to your existing teeth is much better than in traditional PFM crowns.
Crowns are designed to last for many, many years and must be kept clean in order maximize their benefit. Many people don’t realize it, but cavities can still form around the edges of even the most well-made crown, and as such proper brushing and flossing are important. And if a tooth has a crown and has had root canal treatment, home care and regular 6-month checkups are especially critical - because the tooth has no nerve, you will not feel it if a cavity begins to form.