Simply put (and we’ll get get more in-depth soon), a dental crown is a permanent tooth-shaped cap placed over a damaged or weak tooth to protect and restore it.
While a filling may be able to fix minor decay or damage, more serious oral health issues are best solved with a crown. If your dentist recommends one, that’s something to take seriously.
See, your teeth can’t heal themselves. If you have a cavity, it won’t get better on its own. And the longer you go without treating it, the more painful it will become. (And the more expensive and complicated to fix.)
Fortunately, crowns can halt the damage caused by cavities and restore your mouth to a place of health. (Plus, they’re often covered by dental insurance!)
Dental Crowns: everything you need to know
Curious about crowns? We got you covered.
What is a dental crown?
A dental crown is a cap placed over a damaged or decayed tooth. It restores the tooth’s function, strength, and appearance—so you can get back to chewing and smiling normally. Permanent crowns are custom-built to fit perfectly in your mouth and last for a very long time.
Why would I need a dental crown?
“If your teeth are damaged, injured, or simply worn down over time, a crown could be an excellent treatment option to restore the look and function of your smile,” explains Dr. Chris Salierno Tend's Chief Dental Officer.
“Cavities are an incredibly common dental problem. They’re nothing to feel bad about, but they do need to be taken care of quickly, before they do more damage. Sometimes, a dental filling may not be enough to correct the damage left by a cavity—in that case, we’ll use a dental crown.”
In addition to covering damaged teeth, cracked teeth or broken teeth, crowns can be a good option for missing teeth. In that case, your dentist might suggest placing a crown on top of a dental implant.
Why do I need a dental crown instead of a filling?
If your dentist tells you you have a cavity, you may feel a bit guilty about it. Don’t. Even the best brushers might find themselves with a cavity at some point. If that’s you, don’t feel bad.
That said, you can’t brush away a cavity; it requires treatment from a dentist. If you’ve got a cavity, you’ve got to fill it. That means using tooth-colored composite resin to fill the hole in your tooth and prevent further decay.
At your appointment, your dentist will assess whether a composite filling alone is enough to treat your cavity. If the decay is more severe or if the damage is extensive, a filling won’t be enough, and a crown is necessary to make sure things don’t progress.
How long do crowns last?
Most dental crowns will last at least 15 years, but proper care and maintenance will greatly extend their lifespan. A well-cared for crown can last up to 30 years.
What happens if I don’t get a dental crown?
The simple answer: things will only get worse. “If your dentist has recommended a dental crown for a tooth damaged by a cavity, it’s important to get the crown placed as soon as possible,” says Dr. Chris Salierno. “It’s one of the most trusted procedures in dentistry to treat the decay, stop it from spreading, and protect your healthy tooth. On the other hand, the more the decay spreads, the more pain you’ll feel. It’ll also get more expensive and difficult to fix.”
Getting a dental crown: what to expect
What is the process of getting a dental crown?
Because crowns are designed to perfectly fit your mouth and mimic your damaged tooth, the procedure will, in most cases, require two appointments.
At the first appointment, your dentist will take measurements for your new permanent crown. They’ll also remove any damage or decay on the affected tooth, so it’s ready to be crowned. Finally, they’ll place a temporary crown same-day to protect your existing tooth structure and keep your bite looking and feeling normal until your permanent crown is ready.
Your crown will be custom made for you. When it’s ready, usually a few weeks later, you’ll come back for a second appointment to have the temporary crown removed and the permanent crown placed.
Is it painful getting a crown?
“We’ll numb your mouth completely before we begin the process,” explains Dr. Chris Salierno, “so crowns don’t hurt at all. Your tooth may feel a bit sensitive for a day or two after, but that will fade.”
What to expect when you get a crown at Tend:
“We designed the experience of getting a crown at Tend to be as easy and straightforward as can be,” explains Dr. Chris Salierno.
At your first appointment:
Your dentist will start by numbing your tooth and surrounding area with local anesthetic.
Then, they’ll take digital impressions of the tooth to get precise measurements for your new crown. They may also take x-rays of your teeth.
If your tooth has any remaining decay, they’ll remove it. Then they’ll use a special tool to shape the remaining healthy tooth so its new crown will fit perfectly.
Finally, your dentist will prepare and place a temporary dental crown with temporary cement to keep your mouth looking and working normally until your permanent dental crown is ready.
After your first visit, they’ll send all your measurements to a special dental lab, which will prepare your custom crown.
A week or so later, you’ll come back to the dentist’s office for a second visit.
At your second appointment:
Your dentist will again numb your tooth and the surrounding area.
Next, they’ll remove the temporary crown.
They’ll make sure the permanent crown fits perfectly.
They’ll attach the permanent crown with dental cement and wait a few minutes for it to set.
Finally, they’ll check your bite to make sure your mouth is ready to go!
What happens after you get a crown?
You may feel some soreness or mild discomfort in the first few days after getting your dental crown. That’s normal and will fade. You can treat it with over-the-counter pain medications in the meantime.
If the pain relievers don’t feel like enough or the pain doesn’t fade—especially if you feel pain when biting—contact your dentist. They can adjust the crown to make things more comfortable.
Crowns don’t require any special care, but it’s important to keep up your good at-home oral hygiene routine to protect the tooth underneath the crown from decay and gum disease. That means brushing, flossing, and getting regular dental checkups and cleanings.
Your new crown is strong enough to withstand biting and chewing, but it’s not indestructible. Try to avoid using the crown to chew very hard foods like nuts or ice, or very sticky foods like candy. And don’t use your teeth to open packages or chew your fingernails (please!). If your crown chips or breaks, call your dentist right away.
How much do dental crowns cost?
Most in- and out-of-network insurances offer coverage for dental crowns.
If you’re scheduling your dental crown at Tend, the studio team will let you know any cost you may be responsible for, as well as how much will be covered by insurance. (Pro tip: you can also check the cost of your dental treatment plan by using the Tend App.)
Types of dental crowns: permanent and temporary
In discussing your dental crown procedure, your dentist may have mentioned “temporary” and “permanent” crowns. Here’s the difference.
What is a temporary crown?
Temporary crowns are designed to be worn for 2-3 weeks while a permanent crown is custom-made for your mouth.
At your first dental crown appointment, the dentist will prepare your damaged tooth for its permanent crown—often by shaping it.
It’s important that your tooth is protected, and doesn’t move, after it’s prepared. That’s where a temporary crown comes in. Although you’ll only wear it for a short amount of time, it’ll protect your newly-prepared tooth (and keep your mouth looking and feeling good) until your permanent crown is ready.
If your temporary crown falls off, or is is damaged, contact your dentist right away. They will get you in for a dental appointment right away to reattach or replace it.
What is a permanent crown?
A permanent crown is designed to be worn for decades. These types of crowns are carefully produced in a dentistry laboratory based on precise measurements of your mouth. Permanent crowns perfectly mimic the shape and color of your natural teeth.
Because permanent crowns take a week or so to make, you’ll wear a temporary crown in the meantime. When the permanent crown is ready, you’ll return to the dental office for a quick procedure to securely attach it.
What are the advantages of getting a crown?
Dental crowns are a relatively straightforward way of restoring the appearance and function of teeth that have been damaged due to injury or decay. They can also relieve pain and discomfort from damaged teeth. Because they are custom-made to your mouth, porcelain crowns generally look, feel, and fit like your natural teeth.
What are the disadvantages of getting a crown?
If your tooth has an issue that’s serious enough for a crown, there isn’t a downside. Dental crowns are a necessary restorative treatment that’s essential to keeping your mouth healthy. Though they’re more costly than a filling, they’re also meant to treat more advanced decay and damage.
Is a dental crown necessary after a root canal treatment?
If you’ve had a root canal—a dental procedure where diseased or damaged pulp in the center of your tooth is removed—your dentist may also have recommended a dental crown.
While dental crowns are not always required after root canals, in most cases, they’re the best course of action.
Most likely, your tooth has been weakened from the original tooth decay. Root canal therapy will stop the damage from getting worse, but your tooth still needs reinforcements. For example, If the tooth that had the root canal procedure was a molar, premolar, or grinding tooth in the back of the mouth, expect it to require a crown to protect it from further damage. On the other hand, front teeth may not require crowns from a strengthening standpoint, but you may still opt for one for cosmetic reasons.
Ultimately, a crown will protect your tooth and restore its original strength. It can also minimize any sensitivity and give your tooth a normal, natural appearance.
Do you think you need a dental crown?
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