A Guide to Dental Crowns

The aim of your dentist is to ensure that you keep your natural teeth for as long as possible. If you start to lose your natural teeth, it can affect the shape of your face, the quality of your speech, and your ability to chew, eat and swallow food. Losing teeth will also create gaps that harbour bacteria, thus increasing the likelihood of tooth decay in the future.

From your dentist’s perspective therefore, extracting teeth should really be the last resort. No matter what condition your tooth is in, they will explore every opportunity to restore it rather than remove it. Of course, in some cases extraction is the only option left – some teeth are beyond redemption! However, as high quality dental work becomes more sophisticated and more accessible, more and more dentists are able to offer their patients a better range of treatments.

Crowns have been used by dentists to repair teeth for a long time. However, modern dentists now have the added benefit of being able to work with far more advanced materials. But why do you need a crown in the first place? Usually, it is because your tooth has cracked or decayed. If the tooth is significantly damaged, then there is not enough support left to hold a filling in place. Therefore, your dentist will fit a crown over the top of the existing tooth, retaining the remains of the tooth yet at the same time providing an outer barrier against bacteria.

Fitting a crown usually requires two visits. The first visit will involve your dentist taking a mould so that a laboratory can build a perfectly fitted crown. During this visit, your dentist will also prepare your tooth. Your dentist will first of all clean away any debris and decay from the tooth, then shape it so that the crown will fit neatly over the tooth.

On the second visit, usually 3-4 weeks later, your new crown will be ready to be fitted. Your dentist will fit the crown and then cement it into place, providing that the colour and fit match the original specification and your existing teeth.

The variety of materials now available to make crowns means that the costs can vary considerably. However, it also means that there are affordable solutions available and accessible to most people. The types of materials that your dentist could choose depend on the circumstances and the patient. Not everybody wants a metallic or gold crown right in their front set of teeth. However, metallic crowns do have advantages in terms of durability and minimising the impact on other teeth. So if the crown is required at the back of your mouth, it may be an option.

Another option is porcelain or ceramic crowns. Many people favour these because they are a good colour match for your existing teeth and therefore look very natural. However, they are also at the more expensive end of the market. If price is a consideration, ask your dentist about porcelain-metal composites, which have the durability of metal, the natural aesthetic and a slightly more palatable price.

Crowns can also be made from resin. While this is a relatively inexpensive material, it does not last as long as some of the others and wears down relatively easier. So the initial savings are not always as attractive as they first seem.

Your dentist will be able to give you full advice on how to ensure that your crown lasts a long time. However, there are is no specific care programme for crowns. If you treated it like one of your own teeth and maintain a good standard of oral hygiene, then your crown should last for over a decade (depending on the quality of the materials used). One thing that can affect your crown is if your grind your teeth at night in your sleep. If you do grind your teeth (or if you think you do!), discuss it with your dentist. They will be able to advise you on potential steps you could take to protect your teeth from damage.