Crowns are generally fabricated from a type of metal and/or porcelain, and then are placed over a tooth to protect it from fracture and to restore its appearance. Crowns are usually recommended for teeth that have had large restorations with little remaining tooth structure, or after a tooth has had root canal therapy treatment which may otherwise leave a tooth more fragile and at risk for fracture in the future.
Crowns are also used to cover dental implants, attach bridges, and prevent any cracked teeth from getting worse. Crowns can also serve an aesthetic purpose, and are applied when a discolored or stained tooth needs to be restored to its natural appearance. This would be considered a full coverage restoration.
A tooth must be reduced in size to accommodate a crown on it; then an impression of the tooth is sent over to a dental laboratory which then manufactures a custom-designed crown made specifically for the patient’s tooth. While the lab fabricates your crown, a temporary crown is placed on the tooth. Once the permanent crown arrives, it is then bonded or cemented to the tooth and the temporary crown is removed.
Crowns may occasionally become confused with veneers, but they are different. Veneers are generally applied only to relatively small areas and only cover the front surface of anterior teeth, while crowns can cover all the surfaces of a tooth.
With proper dental care, a high quality crown can last more than 10 years. It is very essential to floss in and around the area of a crown to avoid excess plaque or collection of debris around the restoration, or at the margin between the crown and the tooth structure. Crowns may need to be replaced if there is any decay at or under the crown margin. This will compromise the seal of the crown to the tooth. A crown might also need to be replaced if the porcelain on it fractures off of the tooth. Certain behaviors such as jaw clenching or bruxism (teeth grinding) can increase the odds of this happening. Moreover, eating brittle foods, ice or hard candy can compromise the adhesion of the crown, or even damage the crown.