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When Do You Need A Dental Crown In Houston, TX?

There comes a point-of-no-return when you need a dental crown to restore your tooth.

By Jennifer
Photography by Pete

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Dental crowns are one of the most common dental restorations people need for their teeth. They help replace missing parts of teeth, restore a tooth’s bite fully, and protect your tooth from potential problems in the future. Whether due to severe cavities, impacts to the face, or missing teeth, our dentists may recommend a tooth crown depending on your specific needs. Crowns are typically used once a dental filling isn’t enough to repair a damaged tooth. However, at what point do you need a dental crown instead of a filling?

Reasons You May Need A Dental Crown

There’s no single reason that your dentist may perform a dental crown procedure. Crowns provide full-tooth restoration compared to a tooth filling, which is limited only to a small area of the tooth. They’re also made of more durable materials than the composite resin that fillings use, so they are one of the best ways to protect a tooth from future dental issues. Do I really need a crown? Our dentists may recommend a dental crown on a case-by-case basis for these reasons:

Dental Cavities.

A dental cavity starts as a small hole in the tooth. However, as tooth decay worsens, it can create a sizable pit in the tooth, covering much of the surface and burrowing deep to the roots. While smaller cavities may only need a dental filling, larger ones will likely need a tooth crown instead. Crowns can not only restore the missing and decayed dental tissues but also provide your tooth with the proper support and strength necessary to protect it daily.

Broken Tooth

A severely chipped or cracked tooth can compromise the tooth’s structural integrity. When fillings can’t hold the fractured or broken parts of the tooth together, a dental crown is required instead. A dental crown not only keeps what’s left of your tooth intact but also helps rebuild the tooth to its intended size, shape, and bite.

Root Canal

During a root canal, much more of a tooth is removed than with less severe infections. Depending on the decay’s severity, it can mean clearing out an entire root or two. The hollowed-out tooth will need to be reinforced to keep it protected from future cavities and impacts. While a tooth filling can work, dentists typically prefer the greater strength and stability of a dental crown.

Tooth Replacement

Dental crowns can also be used for tooth replacement. They are an essential part of both dental implants and bridges. With implants, an implant post is embedded in the socket where your tooth was. A crown is attached to the post via an abutment, giving the new tooth the original’s look, feel, and function. A dental bridge is instead composed of two crowns connected to a false tooth in-between. By attaching the crowns to the neighboring teeth, you can secure your new tooth in place.

How Much Tooth Do You Need For A Crown?

The answer to this question is a little complicated. As a general rule, dental crowns are required when more than two-thirds of the tooth’s structure is lost to tooth decay or dental trauma. If the damage is less extensive and more localized, our dentists will likely use a dental filling instead. Fillings are the most conservative restoration option. They repair the holes left behind in your tooth by filling them with dental composite. The liquid resin is hardened, layer by layer, until the tooth is fully restored.

In some cases, we may use an inlay or onlay. These more medium-sized restorations act as a compromise between limited fillings and comprehensive crowns. However, these are usually relegated to the biting surfaces of back teeth like molars and premolars. Unlike crowns, which encompass a tooth’s entire surface, inlays and onlays only restore the top of a tooth, such as the cusps and areas in-between. With more significant dental damage covering most of the tooth’s overall surface, our dentists will need to perform a dental crown procedure instead.

With root canals, our dentists may recommend a dental crown even if your tooth’s outer surface is still significantly intact. Root canals remove the tooth’s central structure, making them more brittle and likely to crack or break under strain or pressure. A dental filling can be used to help fill and reinforce the tooth. However, dental crowns are typically the dental work of choice because they are sturdier and can better protect the tooth over time.

However, what if most of the tooth’s structure has been damaged? If too much of the tooth is gone, especially if the damage reaches below the gum line, a dental crown won’t have enough of a foundation to secure it in place. Additionally, dental crowns typically require trimming a tooth to fit them. Our dentists must consider this tooth preparation process to ensure your crown will have enough of a base to support it for years or decades. If there’s too little tooth left, there may be no saving it long-term, and we may need to extract the tooth instead.

What Happens When You Get A Crown?

First, we will numb the tooth with a local anesthetic before working on your damaged tooth. With dental cavities, chips, and fractures, a dentist will remove the injured parts of the tooth with a dental drill. After this, the tooth is cleaned and shaved down a little to prepare it for the dental crown. We will then make an impression of the trimmed tooth, which will be sent to a lab for creating a custom crown. This will take a few weeks, so our dentist will place a temporary crown in the meantime.

Once your permanent crown is ready, you can come in for your second and last appointment to replace the temporary crown. After the temporary crown has been removed, the process will continue similarly to placing the temp crown. However, we will use a stronger dental cement to glue the permanent crown solidly in place over your tooth. This completes the process of a dental crown.

What Are Dental Crowns Made Of?

In general, crowns don’t use composite resin like fillings do because this material is not strong enough to protect the tooth from the full force of your bite over time. Instead, our dentists use more durable materials to help the tooth stay in good shape for many years or even a lifetime longer.


Porcelain is not only strong but it is designed to look just like normal tooth enamel. All-porcelain crowns are entirely metal-free, allowing them to look the most natural, even above other porcelain-type crowns. Porcelain is also resistant to staining, so they look great for decades. However, they have the highest dental crown cost.

Porcelain-Fused-To-Metal (PFM)

PFM dental crowns have a porcelain exterior but a metal base hidden below. This allows them to be stronger than standard all-porcelain crowns while still maintaining a natural look. PFM crowns are also more affordable than their all-porcelain siblings.


All-metal dental crowns are typically made from silver, chromium, palladium, and nickel. What they don’t have in their aesthetic, they more than make up for with their durability. Metal crowns are less likely to crack or chip compared to porcelain crowns. This makes them an excellent choice for less visible back teeth that need to withstand the full force of your bite.


Gold is the best type of metal crown. Gold is just as durable as other metal dental crowns, but they also wear down at the same rate as enamel. This means that they can last a lifetime while being unlikely to cause damage to other teeth when biting down, which can happen with especially strong materials.

How Long Do Crowns Last?

The answer to this question depends on the dental crown’s material. Porcelain-type crowns typically have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. However, they can often last as long as 20 or 25 years as long as you take good care of them. PFM crowns, in particular, are less likely to chip or fracture than all-porcelain types of dental crowns due to their solid metal foundation. Fully metal crowns are even more durable and unlikely to chip, often lasting 20 and even 30 years.

However, the longest-lasting crowns are made of gold. Gold tooth crowns don’t wear down as quickly as porcelain ones. They are also gentler on nearby teeth, preventing wear and tear that is common with stronger materials. Combined, this allows gold crowns to stay in excellent condition for more than 50 years, if not an entire lifetime. Despite their unnatural appearance, there’s a good reason that gold crowns have been used for more than 4,000 years and still are today.

Do you need a dental crown in Houston, TX? The Nu Dentistry team is here to help! Call our dental office to schedule an appointment with a crowns dentist today.

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