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Definition

A dental crown is a cap that covers a damaged tooth. The crown makes the tooth stronger and also improves how the teeth look.

Reasons for Procedure

A dental crown may be needed if your tooth is broken, decayed , worn down, or severely discolored. Crowns are also used to:

  • Support teeth after a filling, dental implant, or dental bridge has been placed
  • Protect the tooth after a root canal
  • Treat chewing problems

Tooth Decay

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Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your dentist will review potential problems, like:

  • Allergic reaction to the materials in the crown or the local anesthesia
  • The need for additional procedures if the crown becomes chipped or loose
  • Damage to the tooth's nerve—root canal may be needed
  • Decay of the crowned tooth if bacteria gets into the tooth
  • Sensitive teeth, especially when consuming something hot or cold
  • Dark line on the gum where the crown is placed if a metal crown is used

Talk to your dentist about these risks before the procedure.

What to Expect
Prior to Procedure

It typically takes two visits to have a crown placed. Before these appointments, you and your dentist will decide which type of crown is best for you. Different materials are used to create permanent crowns, such as:

  • Metal, such as gold
  • Porcelain-fused-to-metal
  • Porcelain
  • Resin
  • Ceramic

You will also have dental exams. The dentist will evaluate the health of your tooth's roots.

It is also important that you talk to your dentist if you take any medicines, herbs, or supplements. You may need to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Blood-thinning drugs
  • Anti-platelet drugs

In addition, tell your dentist if you have any heart conditions or joint replacements. You may need to take antibiotics to prevent infection.

Anesthesia

Local anesthesia will be used.

Description of the Procedure
The First Visit

The dentist will numb the area surrounding the tooth, usually by injecting a local anesthetic into the gum. Next, the dentist will prepare the tooth for the crown. The surfaces will need to be filed down. If you are missing part of the tooth, the dentist may need to add material to the tooth so that the crown can be placed. This filling material is called a crown buildup.

The dentist will make impressions of your tooth and the surrounding teeth. This is to make sure that the new crown will not impact your bite. The impressions will be sent to a dental lab where the crown will be made. If you are planning to have a porcelain crown, the dentist will help you select a shade that looks like your natural tooth color. Finally, the dentist will protect your tooth by placing a temporary crown on it. The permanent crown should be ready in 2-3 weeks.

A newer technique involves digital technology where a permanent crown can be made in the office in an hour or two.

The Second Visit

During the second visit, the dentist will numb the area again. The temporary crown will be removed. Cement will be used to secure the new crown in place.

How Long Will It Take?

You will need to have about two visits over the course of several weeks. Each visit may last about 30-60 minutes.

Will It Hurt?

You may have some pain when the local anesthetic is injected. After the procedure, you may have discomfort or sensitivity around your tooth.

Post-procedure Care
At the Care Center

You will be able to go home after the procedure.

At Home

When you return home, take these steps:

  • During the time that you have the temporary crown, take special care of it:
    • Do not eat anything that may remove the crown such as chewy or hard foods.
    • Chew on the side of your mouth that does not have the crown.
    • Carefully floss your teeth so that you do not pull out the crown.
  • If recommended by your dentist, use toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
  • Take good care of your teeth. Brush twice a day and floss daily. Floss well around your new crown. Also, get regular cleanings and oral exams done.
  • Avoid habits that can damage your teeth, like grinding your teeth or chewing ice.
  • Be sure to follow your dentist's instructions.

With the proper care, a crown can last for 5-15 years.

Call Your Dentist

Call your dentist if:

  • The temporary or permanent crown becomes damaged or falls out
  • You have pain or sensitivity around the new crown
  • You have an allergic reaction to the material in the crown

If you have an emergency, get medical care right away.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
http://www.aacd.com

American Dental Association
http://www.ada.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Academy for Esthetic Dentistry
http://www.caed.ca

Canadian Dental Association
http://www.cda-adc.ca

References:

Brushing your teeth. American Dental Association's Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth.aspx. Accessed April 10, 2013.

Crowns. American Dental Association's Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/c/Crowns.aspx. Accessed April 10, 2013.

Dental crown—tooth cap. Redrock Dental website. Available at: http://www.redrockdental.org/dental-crowns.html. Accessed April 10, 2013.

Dental crowns. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/cosmetic_dentistry/hic_dental_crowns.aspx. Updated December 10, 2011. Accessed April 10, 2013.

Dental crowns. Dental Associates website. Available at: http://www.dentalassociates.org/dental-treatments/dental-crowns.asp. Accessed April 10, 2013.

Dental crowns. Dentists.org website. Available at: http://www.dentists.org/go/dental-crowns/article/dental-crowns.html. Accessed April 10, 2013.



Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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