Porcelain crowns are caps placed on top of damaged teeth to improve their strength or appearance and to halt any further deterioration. The part that is visible is referred to as the crown and will be shaped and colored to match the individual’s natural teeth.
We usually think of dental crowns as covering the entire tooth, but there are variations. When the damage is less or only to a smaller portion of the tooth, onlays and ¾ crowns are sometimes used. These variations serve the same purpose and are made of the same materials, with the difference being that they aren’t a full cap of the entire tooth.
Crowns are made from a variety of substances, but porcelain crowns are today’s most popular choice for front teeth. Not only are they strong and highly durable, they most closely match the appearance of natural teeth.
Why Your Dentist May Recommend a Porcelain Crown
There are many reasons that your dentist may recommend a dental crown. Some of the most common reasons include:
- saving and protecting a tooth that has become weak from decay, wear or injury
- strengthening and supporting previously repaired teeth
- alternative to extraction and implant or bridge when a tooth is too far gone from decay or injury to be repaired with a filling
- support for a dental bridge
- covering a dental implant
- following a root canal, a dental crown is used to restore the covering of the tooth
- cosmetic procedure for improving appearance of a tooth that is discolored or poorly shaped
What You Should Expect During a Dental Crown Procedure
Traditionally, getting a porcelain dental crown requires two visits to your dentist’s office. During the initial visit, your dentist will examine the tooth, take x-rays and shape the surface of the tooth to accommodate the crown. An impression will be made of your trimmed tooth, as well as the surrounding teeth, and sent to the laboratory for fabrication.
Before you leave that first day, your dentist will place a temporary crown over your tooth. This will not only protect the tooth, but it will look just like one of your permanent, natural teeth.
Your permanent porcelain crown will closely match your natural teeth in size, shape, color and surface characteristics. Once it is ready, your second appointment will consist of the temporary crown being removed and the permanent one installed and bonded in place with a special dental cement.
Dental Crowns Are Made of a Variety of Materials
Dental crowns can be made of several different substances. Which your dentist recommends will depend on your individual situation, especially the location of the affected tooth. Types of crowns available include:
- Porcelain – porcelain is a form of ceramic that is strong, durable and can most closely match the appearance of natural teeth. This makes all-porcelain crowns the most popular choice for front teeth. Porcelain that is fused to metal is even stronger and is recommended for back teeth, due to the fact that these teeth are subjected to more wear and the metal base may sometimes show at the gum line. But for those front teeth that are so important to a confidant smile, all-porcelain crowns are the number one choice.
- Metal – usually gold, platinum, nickel, chromium or palladium. While metals are the strongest and most durable option for dental crowns, they are being used less. The main reason for this is the color. It used to be a sign of status to see gold in someone’s mouth but, today, the first choice is for teeth to look natural, and, if metals are used, it will be for those teeth that are rarely visible.
- Resin – resin crowns are a synthetic material, usually using acrylic polymer or polymethyl methacrylate, that is converted into a hardened form. Resin crowns have a very natural look and are less expensive than other materials but are also weaker and tend to wear down or break much sooner.
- Digital Crowns – these are also called milled, “same day crowns” or computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) and are growing in popularity. Traditionally, a mold is made of the patient’s mouth and sent off for the crown to be made, with the patient going home with a temporary crown until the permanent one is ready. With a digital crown, an image is taken and converted into a 3D model that is then transferred to a milling machine which creates the crown. This is equipment may even be located in the dentist’s office and the patient may go home within a couple hours with a permanent ceramic crown.
Caring for Porcelain Crowns
Porcelain crowns do not require any special treatment. That said, it is important to keep in mind that there is a tooth underneath the crown, and it is still susceptible to decay and gum disease. Besides those regular dental exams and cleanings, your crowned tooth should receive the same daily oral hygiene attention as the rest of your teeth. This includes brushing and flossing at least twice a day and making sure to floss around the edge of the crown, where the crown meets the gums, making sure there are no trapped food particles.
How long any crown, porcelain or otherwise, lasts depends on the amount of wear it is exposed to and good dental hygiene practices. With proper care, your porcelain crown will last for many years.