The teeth are so important to our health and happiness. Having a bad tooth can cause both physical and mental strife. Dental crowns are a very popular and highly effective manner of fixing a variety of issues. Everyone has likely heard of a crown, but not everyone knows just how they work and what can be expected when getting one. Let’s take a look at the process, including how long dental crowns last.
What is a Dental Crown?
Crowns are placed on top of damaged teeth like a cap. They can be made from a wide variety of materials, including ceramic, resin, porcelain with metal, and gold or other metals. Stainless steel crowns also exist, but these are used primarily to act as temporary crowns while the permanent crown is being made or on children’s baby teeth. A crown differs from a filling because it covers the entire tooth, all the way down to the gum line, instead of just part of the tooth.
Are Crowns Permanent?
While dental crowns are not permanent, they are certainly a long-term solution. On average, a crown will serve you well for anywhere between five and twenty years. Certain things can be done to help extend the life of your crown, including:
- Practicing good oral hygiene
- Not grinding your teeth
- Not biting your fingernails
- Not chewing on ice
- Not opening packages with your teeth
- Visiting the dentist often
When is a Dental Crown Beneficial?
There are many reasons why a dentist may recommend someone get a crown. Some common ones include:
- Broken teeth: One of the most important things a crown can do is protect a tooth. If you have a tooth that has been severely worn down or is badly cracked or chipped, a dental crown can help.
- Weak teeth: If you have a tooth that has been determined to be weak, from decay or other reasons, a crown can help restore its strength, making it safe to chew on that tooth once more.
- Stained teeth: Sometimes, no amount of tooth whitening will help a severely yellow tooth. For cosmetic purposes, a crown may be placed. This is also true for misshapen or unusually small teeth.
- Dental bridge: A dental bridge can help fill in a gap if you are missing teeth. A dental crown can help to hold the bridge in place, strengthening your teeth.
- Implant: Dental implants are becoming increasingly popular due to their many advantages over other tooth replacement methods. A crown is placed over the implant. This is done to protect it.
- Large filling: Sometimes, a large amount of your tooth has to be drilled out in order to save it. In these cases, a crown can be placed over the remaining tooth to help keep it sturdy.
- Oral injury: Sometimes, a traumatic injury happens to a tooth. When the tooth is severely damaged, a crown can be placed over it to preserve it.
The Types of Dental Crowns
As mentioned above, there are several different materials that your crowns can be made from. The correct option for you will depend on several circumstances. A dental evaluation and consultation is the best way to know what kind of crown you would most benefit from. The consultation will involve evaluating the bone and gum structure to see if the gum is healthy and what type of crown is best.
Crowns made from ceramic or porcelain are popular. This is because they look the most like a natural tooth and are therefore considered the most attractive. They are a great option for anyone with metal sensitivities and are typically expected to last between five and fifteen years.
Gold crowns were once immensely popular, although that has not been the case as much in recent years. The pros of gold are that they last an incredibly long time and do not cause damage to the teeth surrounding them. They are also less likely than other metals to cause any sort of reaction. That being said, they can be expensive due to the cost of gold. Plus, not everyone likes the idea of opening their mouth to reveal a good tooth.
Some people prefer porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns. Like all porcelain crowns, they can be made to blend in with your other teeth. The potential problem with this crown material is that it can damage your other teeth. The porcelain has also been known to chip off, revealing the metal underneath. If you are having a bridge placed that spans multiple teeth, this can be a good choice because the metal provides a good deal of strength.
On top of gold, you also have other all metal options. Like with gold, metal crowns typically outlast the other options. Some metal crowns are alloys that include gold or platinum. Other popular metals used include nickel-chromium and nickel-cobalt. You do not have to worry about these crowns chipping, but you will have to be okay with their appearance if one is placed on a highly-visible tooth.
Stainless steel crowns have two main uses. They are often used as a one-size-fits-all solution while a permanent crown is being made. They are also commonly used on children when they require a crown on a baby tooth. This is because they will simply come out when the baby tooth falls out.
Dental Crowns in Children
If a crown is placed on a permanent tooth of a child, it can be expected to last between five and twenty years as well. Depending on their age, an adult may need to help them with their oral hygiene routine in order to get the most out of the crown’s lifespan. If a crown is placed on a baby tooth, it can reasonably be expected to last until that tooth falls out, especially if it is made from stainless steel. There are several reasons a crown may be placed on a child’s tooth, including:
- When the nerve has been affected
- There is too much decay to hold a filling properly
- To help with spacing when permanent teeth come in
- To protect a tooth that is considered high-risk for tooth decay
The Dental Crown Process
If you think you may benefit from a crown, the first step is to have the tooth evaluated. This is where it can be determined if this is the right dental treatment for you and which type of crown may be the most beneficial. The tooth will be thoroughly evaluated and options will be discussed.
The next step is to prepare the tooth to have the filling placed. This typically involves drilling out any existing decay but will depend largely on why the crown is being placed. In cases of severe decay, a root canal may be required first. Whether or not decay is present, the shape of the tooth will likely need to be tweaked in order for the crown to fit properly. This can involve filling it down or building it up using a filling material. Anesthetic is used to keep you comfortable during this process.
An impression is taken of the crown, which is then used to make the permanent version. This is usually ready within weeks. The tooth will be numbed once again so that the permanent crown can be cemented in place. Once the cement is set, any excess will be removed and you will be good to go.
How Do You Take Care of a Dental Crown?
How you take care of your crown will depend on whether it is a temporary or permanent one. A temporary crown will need special consideration because it will not be as strong. You will want to avoid chewing on that side as much as possible, especially hard, sticky, or chewy items. Sliding dental floss out instead of pulling it straight up can ensure that you do not accidentally pull off the temp crown.
A permanent crown will be cared for the same way as the rest of your teeth. Some people mistakenly think that because the crown is not natural tooth, it can not decay. This is not true. No special care is required, but you will still want to brush the area twice, floss once, and use mouthwash daily.
Are There Alternatives to Dental Crowns?
While the dental crown is definitely a great solution for many situations, it will not be ideal in every case. A proper evaluation is the best way to know what your mouth needs. If a crown is not the appropriate treatment, inlays or onlays can be discussed. These treatments are similar to fillings but are more durable. Onlays are more involved and can be an option when the tooth has damage to its biting surface. Removing the original tooth and replacing it with an implant, then placing the crown, is an option as well.
Learn More About Dental Crowns
To learn more about what dental crowns may be able to do for you, we warmly invite you to reach out and make an appointment with the office of Samuel F. Jirik, DDS. At our convenient location in Cabot by Little Rock, cosmetic dentist Samuel F. Jirik and his dedicated team of professionals will be pleased to explain this option in greater detail and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to set up your consultation – we look forward to speaking with you!