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The Many Ways A Dentist Uses A Dental Crown In Houston, TX

There are many different reasons and ways your dentist may need to use a dental crown.

By Jennifer
Photography by Pete

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Dental crowns are one of the most varied restorative treatments in a dentist’s arsenal. They are widely used for a wide variety of purposes. What is a dental crown? A dental crown is a cap usually made of porcelain, metal, or a combination of both that covers a damaged tooth and returns it to its old self. Crowns are meant to feel and behave exactly as your tooth naturally would. Unlike fillings, inlays, and onlays, which are limited to specific areas of your tooth, crowns encompass your whole tooth to take on a wider area and more extensive damage. Porcelain crowns also benefit from looking like a natural tooth, making it a popular option for front teeth.

Your dentist may recommend getting a dental crown when they are:

Treating Tooth Decay

Minor cavities are often limited to small, shallow areas of the tooth, requiring only a standard dental filling to repair the damage. However, tooth decay covering a large or deep portion of the teeth needs more extensive treatment to remove the decay and keep the tooth safe from further cavities. Dental crowns are particularly common with root canals, which are required once decay reaches a tooth’s central dental pulp.

Root canals require hollowing a tooth of its infected central pulp tissues. Tooth decay at this stage often extends deep enough into the tooth that a dentist must clear an entire tooth canal or root. Without the pulp, a tooth becomes porous and brittle, losing its integrity and strength. The tooth will be filled with a rubbery material called gutta-percha to help minimize this. However, this isn’t enough to protect the tooth from further tooth decay or even the usual pressure and force from your daily biting and chewing. Using a dental crown reinforces the tooth, restoring the strength it needs to stay safe and protected. It also safeguards the rest of the sensitive inner tooth by sealing your intact tooth roots and canals.

Repairing a Cracked or Broken Tooth

Dental crowns are also recommended to restore a severely broken tooth. Like tooth decay, when chips, fractures, and breaks cover a wide or deep part of a tooth, only crowns can reliably restore your tooth to its old self. “Do I really need a crown?” In many cases, patients only need a porcelain veneer or tooth filling to repair surface-level damage. However, with more extensive injuries covering up a large part of the tooth, dental crowns are the only way to fully restore the tooth to its old self. Anything less would hurt the tooth’s integrity and leave it vulnerable to further cavities and trauma, or they wouldn’t wholly address the problem.

Replacing Missing Teeth

Dental crowns aren’t just used to repair broken and damaged teeth. They are commonly needed for help with missing teeth too. Crowns are a crucial part of some of the most popular tooth replacement options: dental bridges and tooth implants.

Dental Bridge

A tooth bridge replaces a missing tooth using two dental crowns bookending a false tooth called a pontic bonded. The crowns are attached to the natural teeth on opposite sides of your tooth gap, so the pontic can quickly and easily fill this space. Like with regular crowns, these abutment teeth are reshaped to fit them. Bridges can be used to replace multiple missing teeth in a row as long as the crowns are securely bonded to their anchoring abutment teeth.

Dental Implants

Dental implants don’t rely on adjacent teeth when restoring your tooth. They instead create their own anchor through titanium screws that take the place of the original tooth root. By embedding the implant screw into the jawbone and letting the two fuse, a dental crown can later be placed on top, remaining fixed and permanent without issue. With the crown in place, a dentist can restore your tooth’s full function and aesthetics.

Which Is Better: Bridge or Implant?

Dental implants are widely considered the best tooth replacement option. After a tooth is removed, the mouth starts rapidly changing. The jaw bone that had supported the tooth begins to recede, neighboring teeth start moving out of alignment, and your face starts to sag. Your remaining teeth may even become loose enough to fall out in severe cases. A tooth bridge holds adjacent teeth in place and minimizes the effects of this post-extraction bone loss. It helps keep adjacent teeth from shifting or loosening. However, it doesn’t completely stop and prevent this jawbone loss in the first place as implants do.

A tooth implant is designed to replace your old tooth, root and all. This fools your smile into believing the old tooth is still there, and it keeps your jawbone fully intact to support it. This simple change allows for these advantages:

  • No facial sagging over time
  • Fewer cavities and tooth loss
  • Dental implants last longer, if not a lifetime
  • Stabler bite
  • Even more natural-looking tooth

However, implants also require multiple visits and time for healing in-between. This can take between 6 months to a year to complete. It’s also more costly than bridges.

Temporary vs Permanent Crowns

What is the difference between a temporary and permanent crown? Tooth crown work is usually done in two dentist visits. During the first, your dentist will directly address any health problems your tooth has (tooth decay, fractures, breaks, etc.) and prepare your tooth to fit your crown. This preparation involves reshaping the base enamel so that the crown can neatly slip on and be secured. However, crowns can’t be created and installed on the same day—not if you want your dental work to match your smile exactly and last for years or decades.

To craft a tooth crown that perfectly recreates your original tooth, your dentist will need to send impressions and molds taken of your mouth to a lab. This takes time, usually a couple of weeks. With porcelain crowns especially, we must take the size, shape, bite, color, and all the nooks and crannies into account. In the meantime, you will still need a placeholder crown to keep your tooth protected while your final, permanent crown is being prepared. This is where a temporary crown comes in.

As their names suggest, temporary crowns are only meant to last for the few weeks it takes for your permanent crown to be made. They are usually made of metal or acrylic, which are low-cost and get the job done while you need them. Then, once the final crown is ready, you’ll come in for your second visit, where we’ll use it to replace your temporary crown.

Does My Dental Crown Require Special Care?

Once your dental crown is in place, you won’t need to add any new steps or instructions to your oral hygiene routine. However, you should still be diligent with your home care, such as brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and sticking to a healthy diet. Your natural enamel is no longer out on display and vulnerable to the effects of dental plaque and bacteria. However, your crowned tooth will still need the proper maintenance to stay strong and healthy and prevent future problems.

Two exceptions do require some extra TLC: bridges and implant-supported prosthetics. When replacing multiple teeth with these fixed appliances, you’ll need to make some adjustments to your flossing techniques. Since the crowns are connected to false teeth, you can’t simply floss between them to clear everything trapped between them and the gums. You will need to thread your floss beneath your false teeth to reach and clear food, plaque, and debris there. While this takes a bit more time, it can be relatively easy with a floss threader.

How Much Does A Crown Cost?

Patients’ dental crown cost will obviously change if the crown is part of a larger treatment, such as a root canal, dental bridge, or implant. However, the base crown’s price also depends on several factors:

  • Type of crown used
  • Location
  • If dental sedation is used

In general, metal crowns are the most affordable, but they’re not easy to hide. All-porcelain crowns are on the opposite end of the spectrum as a completely metal-free option that looks entirely natural. Porcelain-fused metal crowns sit in a happy medium between the two, giving our patients a balance of affordability and aesthetics. Crowns are also covered by dental insurance, which can provide a significant amount of your treatment cost, depending on your specific plan.

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