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Everything You Need to Know About Dental Crowns

Crowns are the multi-taskers of dental work-they do everything from protecting a banged-up tooth to enhancing your smile. We talked to Dr. Chris Lee, a dentist and director of the emergency recall clinic at Dalhousie University’s Dentistry Faculty Practice, to get the whole tooth…er, truth.

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When is a dental crown needed?

When is a dental crown needed?

Crowns, also known as caps, help protect a tooth that has been damaged, such as one with a big filling in it. “We rely on what’s left of the tooth after the cavity has been removed-or the tooth has been broken-to hold on to the filling,” says Dr. Lee. “If you have a tooth that’s 50 per cent filling, there’s less tooth to hold it. When you’re chewing, you can break the remaining tooth structure. A crown is a cover that goes over the entire tooth and protects it from breaking any more.”

Other candidates for a dental crown include teeth that have had a root canal, teeth that are badly deteriorated, or teeth that are crooked, discoloured or misshapen.

Dentists can also put crowns on dental implants. “If someone’s missing a tooth, we put an implant in the jaw,” says Dr. Lee. “The crown or cap is the part you can see.”

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What is a dental crown made of?

What is a dental crown made of?

Crowns are often made from gold, an inert material that’s strong, safe in the body and easy for dentists to work with. “But unless you’re a rapper, you don’t necessarily want gold front teeth, so we also do porcelain crowns, which are white, like your sink,” says Dr. Lee. There are also “porcelain fused to gold” crowns, which have gold underneath for strength, covered by porcelain.

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How long do crowns last?

How long do crowns last?

“Crowns last on average 10 years, but if you brush and floss…we’ve had people with crowns lasting upwards of 25 years,” says Dr. Lee. “We say on average 10 years because most people don’t floss and brush regularly like they’re supposed to.”

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How are crowns made?

How are crowns made?

After administering a local anaesthetic, your dentist files down your tooth into a smaller version of itself, to make room for the crown. He or she then makes an impression, or mould, of the tooth, and creates a temporary plastic crown for you to wear between visits. It takes two to three weeks to have the permanent crown made at a dental lab-technicians use microscopes to ensure a perfect fit, and match the colour of porcelain crowns to your other teeth.

When you go back to the dentist, the temporary crown is removed and your new crown is cemented on. “That tooth afterwards should look and feel pretty much like a natural tooth,” says Dr. Lee.

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What else should I know?

What else should I know?

A tooth with a crown can still get a cavity. The crown sits above the gums, and if you don’t brush and floss regularly, you can get decay between the crown and the tooth.

Crowns can also come loose if you bite something hard, get hit in the face, or attempt to use your teeth to tear something open (a big no-no). “Bring in whatever’s broken so the dentist can assess and see what’s wrong,” says Dr. Lee. “Sometimes the cement just gives loose and they can re-cement it. Sometimes they need to remake it.”