What is a Dental Crown?

Holly Collins
Holly Collins

A dental crown is a cap, shaped like a tooth, that is permanently mounted over an existing tooth by a dentist. A dental crown can be functional or cosmetic and requires more than one trip to the dental office. A crown fitted correctly should last for upwards of ten years.

A dental crown functions to strengthen teeth, restore their original shape, or improve a tooth’s appearance. Broken, cracked and worn teeth can be supported by a crown, or a discolored tooth’s appearance can be improved. A dental crown can be made from porcelain, metal or a combination of the two materials.

Porcelain crowns provide the best color matching options, making them the most natural looking. They are frequently the choice for cosmetic applications and often used for the highly visible front teeth. Porcelain crowns are not as strong as others, so they are not commonly used for molars. They can wear down opposing teeth and are expensive.

Metal crowns are made from gold or other metal alloys. They are considered the longest lasting and strongest crowns. Metal crowns produce minimal wear to opposing teeth and don’t generally chip or break. However, their metal color can be considered unsightly as it does not appear natural. They are often used for out-of-sight molars where strength and durability is important.

A dental crown can be made from porcelain fused over metal. These crowns can be color matched to surrounding teeth. They produce moderate wear to opposing teeth and are stronger than crowns made only from porcelain, but not as durable as those made just from metal. They resemble natural teeth but their metal underlining can sometimes be visible at the gums, appearing as a dark line. This is especially common if gums recede.

Dental crowns are used to anchor dental bridges. A dental bridge fills a gap in the mouth with false teeth or a place holding device to prevent the disruption of the other teeth and bite. Dental bridges can be described as two crowns supporting false teeth between them. The crowns are mounted to existing teeth holding the false teeth in place and filing the gap in the tooth line.

Before any dental crown can be mounted, the affected tooth must be filed down to create room for the crown to fit over it. A dentist will then make a mold in the dental office of the tooth to send to a dental laboratory where the permanent crown will be made. A temporary crown will be put on the tooth until the dental lab returns the permanent one.

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