Understanding the Dental Crown Procedure: What to Expect

Main image courtesy of Fermelia Dental.

Having a dental crown procedure? Want to know more about what to expect? This guide will tell you all you need to know

If you’ve experienced damage to your teeth, or have been dealing with a tooth weakened by disease or decay, your dentist has probably spoken to you about dental crowns. Crowns are a tooth replacement option that can help you get the functionality back of your tooth or teeth. When teeth are damaged or are weakened due to decay, they may need the assistance of a crown to restore them.

But what exactly are dental crowns, and what can you expect from the dental crown procedure? In this Aspen Dental guide, we’re going to go over:

  • What dental crowns are and some of the benefits
  • The types of dental crowns available
  • What to expect from the dental crown procedure
  • How to care for dental crowns
  • Who is a good candidate for dental crowns

What is a dental crown?

Learn what a dental crown is and what it’s used for

two dentists working on patient
Dental crowns are an easy way to restore the functionality of your teeth. They are made out of a variety of materials and the procedure is minimally invasive.

Dental crowns are typically placed on top of a tooth or teeth that are damaged and need to be protected. They are also used to restore the shape of your tooth if it has been broken or needed to be reshaped by your dentist due to decay. It may be helpful to think of dental crowns as caps or helmets that are used to safely protect your tooth and restore its ability to bite and chew easily.

Dental crowns can also give you back confidence in your smile. If you’ve been dealing with cracks or teeth that are damaged, you may no longer feel confident when talking and speaking. Dental crowns can allow you to smile and speak with others with ease and confidence again. 

A dental crown is designed to bring back the strength and appearance of your natural tooth, and they are a popular tooth replacement option. You can get a dental crown on any tooth, regardless of whether it’s at the front of your mouth or in towards the back.

Your dentist might recommend you for a dental crown procedure if you:

  • Have a broken or chipped tooth
  • Have a decayed tooth that is weakened
  • Need to hold a dental bridge in place
  • Have recently had a root canal
  • Are dealing with a discolored tooth

These are all viable reasons you might want to get a dental crown. But why would you choose this tooth replacement option over another?

What are the benefits of a dental crown?

Why might you consider getting a dental crown?

female dentist with mask on smiling while holding tools
Many people consider dental crowns the go-to option for restoring the strength and appearance of their teeth. 

Now that you know a little more about what a dental crown is, let’s learn a little more about the benefits of getting a dental crown. You’ll want to discuss whether this is a good option for you in detail with your dentist, as everyone’s dental needs are different.

Can help relieve discomfort

Dental crowns are useful for many reasons, one of them being to protect your tooth after a procedure. If you’ve recently had a cavity filled or had a root canal procedure, your tooth may be vulnerable to additional damage or decay. 

Because of this your dentist may decide that putting a crown on the tooth or teeth that needed the filling or root canal is a good idea. Once the underlying problem causing you discomfort is addressed, a crown can be placed on to further protect the vulnerable tooth. With a crown in place, you’ll not only get the full appearance of your natural teeth back, but you’ll have the strength of the crown as well. 

Having a crown on your vulnerable tooth can also help alleviate any sensitivity that might have developed due to a filling or root canal.

Protect a damaged or decaying tooth

One of the most common reasons for getting dental crowns is to cap a damaged or decaying tooth, protecting it and strengthening it in the process. Whether you have a chipped tooth, or have had much of your tooth removed due to decay, a dental cap is a great way to seal it going forward. 

If this is the case, your dentist will first prepare your tooth to receive the crown by ensuring it is a good, tight fit. This is done by removing damaged parts, and shaping the tooth so that the crown is easily placed on top. Once it is snug and attached, the vulnerable tooth underneath it is protected from future damage. 

female dentist looking at a patient with a call to action on the right side saying “find an office”

Restore your smile

Although many people use dental crowns to protect their damaged teeth, they can also be used if you have gaps between your teeth, or if they are misshapen or discolored. Speak to your dentist about what your cosmetic dental goals are, and they may decide that dental crowns can help you achieve them. 

Having your confident smile back with the help of crowns is a good investment in your overall health and can make a difference in your quality of life. 

It is a straightforward procedure

The dental crown procedure (more on that below) is a very straightforward process and is not as intense as you might think. Depending on your unique situation, your tooth or teeth will be prepared to receive the crown by being first prepared and altered to a shape that will offer a good seal. The crowns are then cast and you will need to return for their placement. 

If you are required to return for their placement, your dentist will make sure to install a temporary crown so that you can still eat and drink, and go about your daily activities.

They are custom made

Each dental crown you get will be custom made to fit the particular tooth that needs it. There are a variety of materials that crowns can be made out of, and you and your dentist can discuss which option will work best for you.

Dental crowns are long lasting

One of the major benefits of dental crowns is that they are considered a mostly permanent tooth restoration method. Although the length of time a crown lasts depends on the type of material it consists of, how well you prevent decay and how intensely you bite and chew your food. Crowns are a very stable and long lasting option, whether you need to fix a damaged tooth, or want to realign your smile. 

Are there disadvantages to dental crowns?

As we’ve seen, depending on your situation, there are many advantages to getting a dental crown. However it should be pointed out that:

  • Your natural teeth will need to be permanently reshaped in order for the crown to properly fit
  • Your teeth with crowns could become more sensitive to hot or cold foods/beverages
  • Your crown can still become chipped or cracked
  • A crown can fall out over time
  • Cement washout can occur
  • Crowns do not protect your teeth from gingivitis or gum disease
  • You still need to maintain your teeth with regular brushing, flossing and dentist visits after crowns have been placed

If you still feel that dental crowns could be the solution you need, you and your dentist will then need to decide on what kind of material it should be made out of. 

Types of dental crowns

Dental crowns can come in a variety of materials

dentist showing patient her scan on monitor
The type of dental crown material you get will depend on where you need your crown.

Dental crowns are a very versatile option when it comes to a long lasting tooth replacement option. Depending on your situation, you can choose from a variety of materials designed to help protect and strengthen your natural tooth. 

  • Metal. Metal crowns typically include alloys with high levels of gold, platinum, palladium, nickel, or chromium. These materials are all very strong, and they are resistant to chipping or cracking. You can also expect these types of materials to slowly wear down over the years. 

One drawback of getting a metal crown is that it will be a different color from the rest of your teeth. However, if you need a crown for one of your upper or lower back molars, this might be a good choice.

  • Porcelain fused with metal. One way to get the strength and durability of metal without the different color is to go with a metal crown fused with porcelain. This type of material gives you the option of having the crown match the rest of your teeth. However, it can still be chipped and can cause grinding or wear on the teeth that are opposite of it. Over time you may also notice a dark line from the fused metal. Depending on which tooth your crown covers, this could be visible in your smile. 
  • Resin. Another option for a crown that can match the rest of your teeth is to choose resin as a material. However like the porcelain or ceramic crowns, resin is also prone to chipping and even fractures. 
  • Ceramic or porcelain. If you have a tooth that needs a crown that is at the front of your mouth and very visible, your dentist might recommend going with a ceramic or porcelain option. Although the color is easiest to match with a ceramic or porcelain crown, they can still be chipped and may cause extra wear on the teeth opposite of them.
  • Pressed ceramic. This option is designed with a very strong inner core and a ceramic outer layer that is easy to match with the rest of your teeth. This type of dental crown is more resistant to chipping than others.

Depending on where you need your crown, your dentist will recommend a material that’s best for you based on:

  • How obvious your tooth is when you smile
  • What does the tooth do that needs the crown (bite, chew, grind, slice, tear)
  • The amount of natural tooth you still have

After considering these, your dentist can help you choose an option that will give you a long lasting fix for your tooth. 

In addition to dental crowns, your dentist may also discuss with you an onlay or a ¾ crown. If the majority of your tooth is still healthy, you may not need a crown to cover all of it. Instead, your dentist can also give you an onlay. This is typically done if the remaining tooth is healthy and is only slightly damaged, for example if  one of the molar cusps fractures off. However, onlays are not considered as durable or as long lasting a crown as other types, so you'll need to take that into consideration as well.

What to expect from the dental crown procedure

Learn all about the dental crown procedure and what you can expect from it

dental crown produce illustrated in 3 step diagram

If you’re going to get a crown placed on your teeth, that’s great news because you’re on your way to restoring the appearance and functionality of your teeth. The dental crown procedure, as we mentioned earlier, is a straightforward procedure. Afterwards, you can expect to walk away with your tooth (or teeth) restored, giving you back your confident smile. Source : https://www.healthline.com/find-care/articles/dentists/dental-crown#the-procedure

There are two ways in which you might receive a dental crown, in one visit or spread out over two visits.

Getting a dental crown in two visits 

After meeting with your dentist to discuss your tooth restoration options, if they decide that a crown is your best bet, they will recommend one of two options. Either a traditional two-visit dental crown procedure, or a same-day dental crown procedure. If they decide that a two-day procedure is required for your situation, first they will inspect the tooth and clean up any decay or damage. 

Then your dentist will take X-rays of the tooth and the surrounding bone, and determine if there is more extensive work that needs to be done before a cap is placed. This would include a root canal procedure if the decay or damage is extensive.

After this step, your dentist will then prepare the tooth that will receive the cap by filing it down in order to ensure a good fit. How much of your tooth is filed down will depend on the material that your crown will be made out of, and how extensive the previous damage or decay. 

If your dentist decides that you need additional filling material to help build up the natural tooth that you do have left, they will do that as well.

Once that is complete, an impression or digital images will be taken of the tooth that will get the crown, as well as the surrounding teeth and the opposite teeth. This is done to ensure that your bite will not be affected by your new crown. Your impression or digital images will then be used to make your crown.

In the meantime, you will be given a temporary dental crown while you wait for the arrival of your permanent ones. With your temporary crowns, you will be able to eat and speak normally, but your dentist may recommend not eating hard or sticky foods in order to prevent a potential crack or dislodging in your temporary crown.

Once your permanent crowns are ready, you’ll visit your dentist once again. Now your crown is ready to be attached. After removing the temporary crown, they’ll ensure your permanent one fits well and is the color you were expecting. Then your dentist will cement the permanent crown to your tooth. 

Afterwards you can leave knowing that your tooth (or teeth) are protected from additional damage or decay, and can go back to eating normally.

Same day dental crown

The first step of getting your dental crown is to visit your dentist and have a consultation. Once they know what your situation is, they can determine whether or not a crown is your best option. If they believe it is, they’ll consider a variety of factors before determining what type of material they should use for your crown.

After that, your dentist will remove any damage or decay around the teeth, so that it is healthy. Then they’ll shape the tooth so that the crown will fit. 

Next your dentist will take digital images of your affected teeth so that they can be sure to get the right size and shape for your crown. With this 3D model, they’ll be able to then construct the crown right there in the office. Typically, the crown is then carved by a machine from ceramic. Once your crown is ready (anywhere from an hour to two hours) you can have it cemented on the same day.

Dental crown and bridge procedure

We’ve discussed how your dentist will place a dental crown on one tooth, but what if you need a dental crown bridge? This type of tooth restoration procedure is also very straightforward, however an artificial tooth (or teeth) will be held in place in between two crowns, creating the bridge structure.

If you have a missing tooth or teeth in between two damaged or decaying teeth, your dentist might opt for this type of procedure as opposed to a partial denture. To start, they’ll need to take measurements, molds, and images of your teeth that require the dental crown bridge. Like the regular dental crowns, this can involve X-rays, impressions, or digital images of your affected teeth, as well as your surrounding and opposite teeth. This is done to ensure that your bite will still be the same with your dental crown bridge.

Once the bridge is ready to be placed, your dentist will first prepare the teeth that will receive the crowns. This includes removing any damaged or decaying material, and filing down the teeth so that they will properly hold the bridge in place. They will then cement the crowns to your teeth that hold the bridge in place, with the artificial teeth in between. This is a great option for you if you want something that feels more natural than a partial denture.

With a dental crown bridge, you can expect to get back your ability to chew, speak, and smile with confidence. 

How do you care for dental crowns?

Is there any special way to care for dental crowns?

Now that you’ve got your crowns in place, how should you go about caring for them? Your dentist will give you specifics, but you can expect to care for your dental crowns just as you would your natural teeth. This means:

  • Brushing twice a day. Make sure you’re brushing your teeth and your new crowns twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush. It’s important that you pay attention to the amount of time you’re brushing for as well, and aim for two minutes. 
  • Flossing. Don’t skip the flossing step, even with your crowns. While a dental crown can protect a tooth from damage or further decay, it cannot prevent it from gingivitis or gum disease. This means you’ll need to make sure you’re flossing at least once a day to remove food particles and prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria. 
  • Using mouthwash. Another good way to ensure you’re getting between your teeth for cleaning is to use an ADA recommended mouthwash after you brush. 
  • Visiting your dentist. It’s always recommended that you visit your dentist twice a year for a checkup and a cleaning. They can use these opportunities to make sure your teeth and gums look healthy, and answer any questions. Your dentist can also use these visits to check on how your dental crowns or dental crown bridges are holding up. 

Who is a good candidate for dental crowns?

When should you get dental crowns?

Dental crowns are a good idea for anyone who wants to protect their teeth from additional damage or decay. If you have a damaged tooth, or are worried about whether or not you could benefit from a crown, speak to your dentist. Crowns are a minimally invasive way to strengthen your teeth and restore your confident smile. Your welcome starts here

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