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Like every other part of the human body, your teeth are prone to health conditions and diseases such as cavities, plaque, and decay. Some of these may worsen to the point that a crown is needed to fill in a missing tooth or a reduced one. There are various types of dental crowns available, each of which has a different lifespan and durability. To find out what makes them differ from one another and which one is suitable for you, keep reading until you reach the bottom of the page.
What is a Crown?
A dental crown is an object that is placed over a damaged tooth to protect and strengthen it. It’s also called a cap. The procedure normally takes place over a span of two or more visits to the dentist. On the first appointment, the specialist will remove any decay, if such exists, and reduce the tooth to the desired shape and size. The goal is to allow enough space for the crown.
Sometimes an X-ray will be necessary to determine whether the roots are in good condition. If there is a risk of infection or gum disease, you will need to receive a root canal treatment.
Next up, the dentist will take an impression of the teeth. That way the dental laboratory can make a model of your mouth and create a crown that fits your individual bite. Because it’s uncomfortable to eat and drink with a reduced structure over a period of two weeks, the dentist may put a temporary crown in the affected area. It will be made of plastic or metal. It is easily removed because the cement is temporary too.
On the next visit, you will have your permanent crown cemented in place. When done right, it encloses the visible part of the tooth above and at the gum line.
There are a few instances when such a procedure is necessary:
- When what’s left of the tooth isn’t enough to support the structure
- When a tooth has worn out heavily or is broken
- For the sake of a cosmetic modification
- When a tooth is too weak or cracked
- When there is a dental implant in the gums
- When the shape or colour of a tooth have changed
Types of Dental Crowns Available
Porcelain, or ceramic, crowns are the best aesthetic replacements for incisors and canines. The reason behind this is they blend perfectly with the colour and overall appearance of the teeth. They are not to be used for pre-molars and molars, though. Like everything else, they have their pros and cons.
One disadvantage is they can chip off much more easily than other materials. Due to the fragile nature of porcelain, heavy biting and chewing forces plus extreme temperatures are a big no-no.
In addition, your teeth may become hypersensitive to hot and cold after the fitting. Not only will you cringe every time you have a bite of something warm or cool, but you risk damaging the material. Another disadvantage is that a lot more of the initial tooth structure needs to be reduced for the crown to fit onto it.
On the plus side, porcelain is biocompatible, which means it’s not likely to cause gum problems or allergies as opposed to other materials. Another huge advantage is that the procedure is very time-efficient and can be performed in one single appointment. Last but not least, there is no risk of dark lines appearing on the crown over time. Porcelain does not lose its colour.
Metal crowns are notorious for their endurance, which makes them the perfect option for people with bruxism and strong chewing habits. Because their colour doesn’t really match that of the teeth, they had better be placed in the back of the mouth. The good thing is they need just a small amount of filling.
Overall, the biggest drawback of metal crowns is their colour. It brings no aesthetic appeal and it can’t be used on teeth that are visible, like the front ones. The other concerning disadvantage is that people who suffer from metal allergies should refrain from getting those types of crowns.
Porcelain fused to metal crowns (PFMs)
A PFM comes with a metal core covered with an outer layer of porcelain. It can be placed on the front teeth because of the naturally-looking colour. This type of dental crowns is quite durable and long-lasting. They can easily handle heavy biting forces, but, unfortunately, they might cause wear and tear of adjacent teeth.
Also, since the outer layer is translucent, it can make the metal underneath it show through. That’s quite an uncomfortable moment for patients.
It takes two or more appointments to complete a replacement using a PFM.
Gold by far is the best dental crown material in terms of durability. It’s also a popular choice because it doesn’t cause as many reactions as metals, plus it has less sensitivity. The negative aspect of gold crowns is that they are not aesthetically appealing as compared to porcelain crowns. The yellow colour stands out from the natural teeth and ruins the appearance of the mouth.
For this and other reasons, it’s best that they are mounted in the back. If you happen to have bruxism, this is the kind of material you need.
Stainless steel crowns
In general, these are used as a temporary measure. They are often placed on children to protect a primary tooth from further tooth decay. Many parents stick with this option when their small ones have a hard time following good oral hygiene practices.
The best part is, stainless steel crowns naturally come out when the permanent tooth begins to grow, so there is no need to visit the dentist. These replacements are easy to make. A single appointment is usually enough to get the job done.
These look good on the teeth and blend with the rest of the structures. They are also quite affordable. The problem is, they wear down too quickly, which means they are not so inexpensive after all. Overall, the material is less durable than that of PFMs.
How Long Do Crowns Last?
It depends on the material it is made of. The average lifespan is 5 to 15 years and some crowns can hold up 25 years and more. The minimum shelf life is five years, which means that insurance companies will pay for a new crown if one is needed before the period has expired.
Cost of a Tooth Crown
A dental crown may range between $500 and $2,800 per tooth. The price is greatly determined by the material used in its making, but there are other factors included. That plus, different complications that need treatment prior to the procedure will add to the cost.
The most expensive seem to be metal crowns - $1,500 and higher; however, considering their durability, they may actually result in being cost-effective in the long run, just like with the Invisalign braces, you pay more but you get a better result that lasts longer than the cheaper options.
Resin and stainless steel crowns are on the low end of the price spectrum, starting at $300 per tooth. Porcelain crowns are available for $500-$800 and more. Of course, they are fragile and easy to fracture.
What you should know is some part of the cost may be covered by your insurance company. Be sure to check with them on this matter.
What About Dental Implants?
These are metal frames or posts that are operatively placed into the jawbone. They enable dentists to adjust replacement teeth on them. They can also be used to support crowns and bridges. Here is the thing. Some people have poor ridges, sore spots or gagging in the affected areas, which makes placing a bridge impossible or uncomfortable. In those cases, a dental implant helps secure the tooth in place so that it doesn’t shift in your mouth when you eat.
In order to receive one, you need adequate bone for support and healthy gums. Besides, implants are in the high price range, with most dental insurance companies covering no more than 10% of the fees.