What is a crown?
A crown is a tooth restoration that covers and protects the visible portion of a tooth above the gumline. Think of a crown like an enamel replacement (enamel is the strong, outermost layer of a tooth). Unlike a filling which fills inside a tooth, a crown wraps around the outside to reinforce the remaining tooth structure inside. A crown can be made from a few different materials, though most modern crowns are made using porcelain. Porcelain crowns are both highly esthetic and long lasting. They can be made in-office or by a dental laboratory depending on the clinical situation or materials being used.
What are the benefits of a crown?
Crowns have a number of benefits compared with other methods of restoring teeth:
- Strength – Crowns are made from materials that are stronger than fillings
- Longevity – Because of their strength, crowns have a long life expectancy
- Protection – When used on weakened or broken teeth, crowns protect teeth from further breakdown and damage
- Esthetics – Modern crowns are made from highly esthetic porcelain, mimicking the color and shape of teeth
Why would a tooth require a crown?
There are a number of reasons a tooth would benefit from being restored with a crown, including:
- To restore a broken or fractured tooth
- To cover a tooth where there is insufficient remaining tooth structure to support a filling
- As a final restoration for a tooth that has had a root canal
- To restore the top portion of a dental implant
- To make a cosmetic improvement to a patient’s smile
What are crowns made from?
A crown can be made from one of three materials: porcelain, gold, or a combination of porcelain and metal (also known as a porcelain-fused to metal crown, or PFM). Over the years there has been a steady transition from metal-based to metal-free solutions. Gold was one of the first materials used to fabricate crowns and is still used occasionally today in some situations. The benefits of gold are that it is a strong and resilient material even in areas where it may be quite thin. Early types of porcelain that were used decades ago were much weaker than materials available today, so metal was added beneath the porcelain to add strength to create a porcelain-fused to metal crown. Though these types of crowns were stronger than early porcelain-only crowns, they were not nearly as esthetic and often had a dark gray line along the edge near the gumline. With recent advances in porcelain technology, the traditional advantages of metal-based crowns over more esthetic porcelain options has diminished.
Not all porcelain crowns are the same. There are many (20+) types of porcelain available today for making crowns. For front teeth, porcelains such as lithium disilicate or glass ceramics are generally used. These types of porcelain are highly esthetic—they are able to match existing teeth very accurately—while also being very strong. They are usually made by a dental lab which allows them to be customized to offer the best and most life-like color and contours to match your other teeth. For back molar teeth, porcelains based from zirconia are typically used. These offer the utmost in strength even in thin applications, rivalling the advantages once held only by gold.
What is the difference between a crown and a veneer?
When used on front teeth, crowns and veneers are very similar to one another. They are made from the same or similar materials and are able to meet even the highest esthetic demands. The main difference is in the way a tooth is prepared for a veneer versus a crown. Veneer preparations are generally focused to the top and forward-facing surfaces of the tooth, whereas crown preparations circle the tooth 360°. Both types of restorations offer the same cosmetic opportunities. The style of preparation is determined by the individual clinical situation and condition of the tooth. For more on dental veneers, visit our veneer page.
Are there any alternatives to a crown? How do I know if a crown is right for me?
Depending on the clinical situation, some alternative treatments may include a bonded white filling, porcelain onlay, or veneer. Dr. Jason Doublestein, Dr. Michael Wierenga, and Dr. Katelyn Trierweiler along with our dedicated staff here at 44 West Dental Professionals are trained to consider each individual’s unique circumstances and are happy to discuss if a crown is the best treatment option for you. Give us a call at (616) 530-2200 to set up a consultation today.