Understanding Dental Crowns

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Dental crowns are a wonderfully helpful tool in dentistry. Crowns can restore functionality to damaged teeth and neutralize a multitude of oral health problems. The purpose of a central crown is also to match your existing outer tooth structure — and teeth with crowns are often not even noticeable.

What is a Dental Crown?

If you have a decayed, broken, weak, or worn-down tooth you may be a good candidate for a dental crown. A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap that dentists use to fully restore damaged teeth of many types. If you have ever had a dental filling on a tooth, there’s a good chance that a dentist placed a crown over the affected tooth during the procedure.

Crowns can be made from a variety of materials and are also useful for covering dental implants and restoring teeth that have had root canals. You and your dentist will choose the right type of crown for your situation — and perhaps one that best matches your other teeth.

During a dental crown procedure, a dentist first numbs your mouth with a local anesthetic and then places the dental crown over your entire tooth (think of it like a protective helmet), bonding it to the tooth to ensure it remains in place. The dental crown allows the root and the remaining part of the tooth it covers to stay in place, keeping the tooth safe from the rigors of chewing.

Dental crown care is also simple, and a permanent crown placement can be maintained by the normal care that you provide to your other teeth.

When Would You Need a Dental Crown?

There are plenty of situations in which a dental crown can restore a compromised tooth, and a qualified and thorough dentist will first perform a full examination before suggesting a crown. (It may take two visits to receive the crown. The first visit will be for an examination, while the crown is placed over the affected tooth in the second visit.)

A dental crown can protect and support a cracked tooth. Without the crown, the inside of the tooth (including the root) would be vulnerable to bacteria, which could invade and kill the tooth.

But that’s just one of the many uses for a dental crown. Other uses for crowns include:

  • Strengthening a weak tooth
  • Restoring a worn or broken tooth
  • Covering a severely stained or discolored tooth

Crowns also act as a great method of supporting other dental procedures, as they can hold a dental bridge in place for instance. Crowns can also cover a tooth treated for a root canal, and/or cover a dental implant.

In other words, crowns are almost a kind of oral duct tape. That’s because a crown can perform countless tasks while holding up under extreme rigor — much like a normal tooth.

Types of Dental Crowns

Crowns are not only versatile in how they are used, but they are also versatile in what they are made of. Depending upon your needs, your dentist will help you select the type of tooth crown that best meets your unique dental needs. Selecting the right permanent crown for your tooth is important, so you should familiarize yourself with the dental crown types available to you.

1. Gold Crowns

Because they are made of metal, gold crowns are both sturdy and chip-resistant. Metal crowns hold up for years under the force of biting and chewing. One of the few marks against the gold crown is that it is very noticeable on the tooth. Other types of crowns look much more like a normal tooth. For that reason, gold crowns are often selected as crowns for back teeth — such as the hard-to-see molars. If you have a metal allergen, do not select metallic crowns.

2. All Porcelain Crowns

Porcelain crowns are designed to look most like regular teeth (porcelain has very much the same color as a natural tooth and its enamel). An all-porcelain crown is often extremely durable and at the same time gentle on the teeth it touches. All porcelain crowns are also a great choice for those people who have metal allergies.

3. Porcelain Fused-to-Metal Crowns (PFM crowns)

Combine the durability of metal and the natural look of porcelain and you have the advantages that a porcelain-fused-to-metal crown offers. However, you should also know that the porcelain coating on the crown can chip away over time. This style of crown can also be worn on the enamel of the teeth that the crown touches.

4. Zirconia Crowns

Zirconia crowns also offer plenty of strength and durability – in fact, studies show that they wear as well as metal crowns. Zirconia is also the choice of many dentists because of its biocompatibility – which means it is less likely to provoke your body’s auto-immune response and cause an inflammatory response. This type of crown has an opaque appearance, however, which can make zirconia crowns appear less than natural.

5. Ceramic Crowns

A ceramic crown is also designed to match your tooth color and enamel. This type of crown is less likely to chip and fracture than some other different types, but it may also wear down over time. This type of crown is a great choice for people with metal allergies.

6. Temporary Crowns

Know that you may receive a temporary crown on your tooth while your permanent crown is being made in a dental lab. A temporary crown is usually made of acrylic or metallic material. Your dentist will fit the temporary crown to your tooth using temporary dental cement, (dental crown glue) to keep the crown in place. The temporary crown will then be replaced on your tooth by your dentist in another procedure.

Risks / Benefits

As with any dental procedure or dental structure that is placed in your mouth, there are benefits and risks to a permanent crown. However, the benefits of crowns typically far outweigh the risks. And since some types of crowns have been around for decades (in fact, the first crown was thought to have been used as early as 200AD with modern style crowns developing in the early 20th century) we have plenty of research to back that determination.

What Are the Benefits of Dental Crowns?

As we’ve already noted, crowns can cover several types of dental problems, including broken, worn, or decayed teeth. A crown can also help protect other dental work, improve chewing function, and can be made to look exactly like real teeth — even to the point of enhancing the appearance of your smile.

Crowns are also relatively simple and quick to place inside the patient’s mouth.

On top of that, a crown can last for years without concern. And, best of all, you will likely never notice the crown, as it looks and feels like a regular tooth.

What Are the Disadvantages of Dental Crowns?

Some of the risks involved with crown placement include the fact that you will need to have some enamel removed from the affected tooth to place the crown. Your body could also react to the crown and cause some inflammation (though modern materials make this extremely rare). The crown can also break or fracture over time. Or the crown could trap bad bacteria underneath it and foster tooth decay underneath the crown (though a good dentist will thoroughly clean and prep the affected area to help prevent this). The most common disadvantage to this type of dental procedure is cost. Dental crown costs range between $500 to $3,000 per tooth, depending on the material used.

How Long Does it Take to Feel Better After a Dental Crown Procedure?

Dental crown procedures do not take long or require special preparation. However, following the procedure, you may be sore or tender in the gums or teeth surrounding the crown. But you should be back to normal within a couple of days. And it is nothing that cannot be addressed by over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. There is also a chance you will experience some heat and cold sensitivity in the area around the crown for a couple of weeks. Otherwise, you should be able to resume normal activities on the same day as the crown is placed.

Foods to Avoid With a Crown

If you have crowns, there are some foods that you should avoid chewing, as they could damage or dislodge your new crown, including:

  • Tree nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Sticky sweets (and don’t bite hard candy)
  • Ice cubes

Common Problems That May Occur

There are very few complications with teeth and crowns. However, if you have a dental crown or are due to have one, you should be aware of these common problems that can occur with permanent crowns.

Tooth Decay

Probably the most common problem associated with dental crowns, decay may happen due to poor oral hygiene. If tooth decay occurs and forms a cavity on the tooth where the crown sits, the crown will remain intact, but the tooth underneath it could still deteriorate. Therefore it is paramount to maintain strong oral hygiene after receiving a dental crown.

Misplaced Crown

If the crown does not perfectly fit onto the affected tooth, it could impact several factors of your oral health, including your bite. If this happens, it could begin to cause discomfort and even pain. If you have a precise and caring dentist, this should not be a concern. But if a dental crown is misplaced, your dentist should and will be able to correct the crown.

Crown Failure

This is a fancy way of saying that dental crowns, as fantastic and safe as they are, do occasionally break or become dislodged. This is highly unusual, however, if it does happen, your dentist can correct or replace the broken or loose crown. In fact, a dentist is the only person that can fix a failed crown. The good news is that if a dental crown chips, your dentist may be able to fix it with a minimum of fuss and a simple application of resin. Larger breaks to the crown may require a replacement.

Sensitive Mouth

After a dental crown is placed in your mouth, you may experience some slight discomfort in the teeth or gums immediately touching the implant, including heat and cold teeth sensitivity. However, if you have sensitive teeth or gums for longer than a couple of weeks, you should contact your dental professionals and have your mouth and crown examined.

Nerve Pain and Allergic Reactions

File both of the above conditions under VERY rare. However, the nerves inside the tooth on which the dental crown sits can become irritated. This can be very painful and may occur within hours or even weeks after the crown has been implanted. Unfortunately, the only way to completely stop this is to undergo a root canal treatment. Conversely, your body may have an allergic reaction to the crown. If this does happen, your dentist will simply remove the dental crown and replace it with a crown made from a different material.

Greyed Gums

This only happens – and rarely at that – to patients with a metal-based crown. It’s not a cause for real concern, but it happens because the metal in the crown shows through your gumline. It does not affect your health in any way and is not painful. However, if you do not want the possibility of this, talk with your dentist about alternative sources for your crown.

How Long Do Dental Crowns Last?

As long as you care for the crown properly (which entails basic oral health standards as well as avoiding foods already listed), dental crowns last between 5 to 15 years. After that time, you may need a dental crown replacement procedure. And the new crown will last just as long.


Dental crowns are a wonderful tool for dentists and have, for decades, helped a wide range of patients maintain a healthy, attractive smile in the face of various dental health problems.

If you need – or think you may need – dental crowns know that Parrish-Childs Dentistry is here for you. Our full-service, friendly, and family-based approach to practice has served the health of patients throughout north Georgia for years.

Our highly qualified and friendly staff understands every aspect of implant dentistry and will help you receive the care – and dental implant type – that serves you best. We can also work with you on dental crown costs and determine a payment plan that suits your budget.

Do not wait for your bi-annual dental visits to talk to a dentist about dental crowns. Call Parrish-Childs Dentistry today at 770-536-0581 and let us help ensure your optimum oral health.