What is a crown?
A crown restores your tooth by placing a strong, beautiful cover over it – much like a thimble goes over your finger. Fillings break down and leak allowing cavities (holes in teeth caused by germs) to begin under the filling. Crowns are made of strong, corrosion-proof materials, unlike fillings, so they last a long time and provide protection to the tooth.
Why do I need a crown?
Crowns can be needed for a number of reasons:
- Large fillings and decay have made this tooth weak and easily broken. Fillings leak eventually and a cavity begins under the filling. This doesn’t hurt – at first. By the time cavities hurt, a root canal (treating infection in the nerve of the tooth) is often needed. The cavity may be so big that the tooth can’t be fixed. Costly and time consuming work may need to be done to fix the problem. In some severe cases, the tooth may be lost, and a more expensive implant (a small post placed into the jaw) or bridge (artificial teeth) would be needed.
- If a root canal has been done on a tooth, it is more brittle and likely to break. A crown protects the tooth from breakage and possibly losing the tooth and the investment made on the root canal.
- Sometimes a crown is the only way to make a tooth look nice.
Why don’t I just wait until the tooth breaks to crown it?
When a tooth breaks it can be much harder to repair – if it can be repaired at all. The tooth on the left is so broken down that it can’t be restored. The picture on the right shows how the area looks once the tooth is extracted (removed); now a bridge or an implant will be needed to replace this tooth. Broken teeth often need to be fixed with root canals and/or gum surgery, increasing the cost and making it much more difficult and expensive to save the tooth.
Why do some crowns look fake or have a black line at their base?
You won’t know a good crown when you see it because it just looks like a beautiful tooth! Crowns that look fake or have black lines are done with older technology which doesn’t allow the beauty and function we can achieve today. They also may be made of cheap materials that just aren’t as nice as what we use.
I have crowns in my mouth that have been there since I was in dental school – which was several decades ago! BUT, they were well done initially with fine materials, I brush and floss daily and thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste, get regular cleanings, don’t eat a lot of sweets between meals and wear a night guard to protect my teeth from grinding. HOWEVER, insurance companies and the American Dental Association expect crowns to last just five years. How well you care for your teeth determines how long they last.
Many materials are used today for crowns. Beautiful crowns today can be made of zirconium (like fake diamonds), porcelain, metal and porcelain, ceramic or gold. The particular situation dictates which materials are best. Some materials are more beautiful but less strong; some, like gold, are very long lasting but many people don’t want to see gold in their smile.
It depends on the materials and the situation. We always discuss price before any work is done.
Most professionals know what their work is worth. Those of us who do the same quality generally charge about the same – our expenses are similar. I suggest only the kind of work I’d have in my own mouth. Expertise, good lab work and materials, and insisting on quality at every step in the crown process all make for a costlier – but better – crown. Ask yourself: Would you chose the cheapest heart surgeon? What is your health worth to you?