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Dental Crowns Decoded: Types, Benefits, and Considerations

If you’re considering a dental crown, you likely have a tooth that is damaged or decayed and you’re seeking reparative options. Dental crowns are custom-fitted tooth prosthetics that are used to restore the shape, strength, and appearance of your teeth. In this article, we’ll guide you through the various types of dental crowns, from the durable metal variants to the natural-looking porcelain ones, and discuss their unique benefits. We’ll also unpack the procedure of getting a crown, the associated costs, maintenance tips, and how to decide if a crown or a dental implant is right for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Dental crowns are restorative prosthetics used to reinforce weak, fractured, worn, or discolored teeth, and can also support dental bridges and cover treated teeth, providing both aesthetic and practical benefits.

  • Crowns are available in several types and materials, including all-ceramic for aesthetics, gold and metal alloys for durability, and porcelain fused to metal combining both. The choice depends on the tooth’s location, the patient’s needs, and cost considerations.

  • The process of placing a crown involves tooth preparation, temporary protection, and aftercare to maximize the crown’s lifespan, which averages 15 years but can last up to 30 years with proper maintenance.

Understanding Dental Crowns: A Comprehensive Overview

Illustration of dental crowns

Dental crowns, like knights in shining armor, come to the rescue of compromised teeth, reinstating their strength and beauty. They are a popular go-to solution for various dental issues, including:

  • Reinforcing weak teeth

  • Protecting fractured teeth

  • Restoring worn or broken teeth

  • Serving as coverage for severely discolored teeth

  • Supporting a tooth with large fillings

What’s more, dental crowns can also play a crucial role as an anchor for dental bridges or as a cover for root canal-treated teeth or dental implants. So, whether it’s a chipped crown or a tooth that requires a root canal, the dental crown is your knight, ready to restore your smile to its former glory.

The Different Crown Types and Materials

Now that we understand the significance of dental crowns, let’s delve into the different types of crowns out there. Just like a suit tailored to fit, dental crowns can be crafted from various materials including resin, metal, and porcelain, each suited for different dental needs.

From all-ceramic crowns that offer superior aesthetics to gold and metal crowns known for their durability, there’s a crown for every need.

All-Ceramic Crowns

Known for their exceptional aesthetic appeal, all-ceramic or porcelain crowns are often the first choice when it comes to front teeth restorations. These crowns closely mimic natural tooth enamel, giving you a smile that is as close to natural as possible. Zirconia crowns are another option to consider for a durable and aesthetically pleasing restoration.

But that’s not all. These crowns, made of high-quality crown material, also come with:

  • A tough inner core layered with porcelain, allowing them to resemble the translucency and natural appearance of tooth enamel

  • The ability to be closely matched to the shade of surrounding teeth, ensuring a seamless blend

  • Tailoring using molds of your teeth, offering a secure, comfortable fit that protects the tooth from bacteria and decay

Add to that their durability, and you have a crown that’s not just beautiful but also tough, stabilizing teeth with large fillings, covering implants, or supporting dental bridges.

Gold and Metal Crowns

Ever considered precious metals for your dental restoration? Some of the metals dental technicians use to create durable crowns are:

  • Gold

  • Palladium

  • Nickel

  • Chromium

These metal crowns are known for their strength, contributing to their long-lasting durability. In fact, a metal crown can last for many years with proper care.

But where exactly do these metallic marvels fit in? Due to their resistance to wear, gold and base metal alloy crowns are typically recommended for back teeth which are subject to significant forces from chewing. Plus, a minimal amount of enamel needs to be removed from the tooth when fitting these metal crowns, helping preserve more of the natural tooth structure.

Porcelain Fused to Metal (PFM) Crowns

Enter the hybrid solution in the world of dental crowns – the fused to metal crowns, also known as Porcelain Fused to Metal (PFM) crowns. These crowns are called as metal crowns with a layer of porcelain fused on the metal. The porcelain gives them a natural appearance. This unique combo offers the strength of the underlying metal with the aesthetic benefits of the ceramic top.

The metal framework of PFM crowns is designed to bond well with porcelain, enhancing the crown’s durability and aesthetic value. Moreover, PFM crowns can utilize a variety of metal options including high noble metals like gold, or more economical base metal alloys like silver, cobalt-chrome, or nickel. Despite the increasing popularity of all-ceramic crowns, PFM crowns continue to be a prominent choice for many due to their blend of toughness and aesthetic quality.

The Process of Getting a Permanent Crown

Illustration of the process of getting a permanent crown

Having explored the different types of crowns, let’s take a step-by-step journey through the process of getting a permanent crown. The journey begins with an initial dental examination to assess the suitability of a crown for the damaged tooth and to identify any other dental issues that require attention.

The next step involves preparing your tooth to accommodate a dental crown. Here’s what happens:

  1. A dentist must remove a small portion of the affected tooth’s enamel.

  2. To ensure your comfort during the procedure, a local anesthetic is applied.

  3. After the tooth is prepared, a temporary crown is placed to protect the tooth while the permanent crown is being created.

  4. This involves taking impressions of the tooth using a physical mold or digital imaging.

The final part of the journey takes place in the dental lab, where the personalized permanent crown is constructed. This process ensures a proper fit and natural appearance, taking approximately two to three weeks before the dentist secures it over the prepared tooth. During this time, temporary crowns may be used to protect the tooth. The process concludes with polishing and advising on post-placement care to facilitate healing.

Cost Analysis: Investing in Your Oral Health

Dental crowns, while being an effective solution for a variety of dental issues, can be a significant investment. However, dental insurance often includes coverage for dental crowns, providing a cost-effective alternative to patients compared to dental implants. On average, dental insurance contributes about $400 towards a dental crown, reducing the out-of-pocket cost for patients.

Without dental insurance, patients may pay an average of $1,300 per tooth for a dental crown. But when you consider the laboratory cost of a Zirconia crown, which ranges from $103 to $160 per unit, and the longevity of the crown which could last up to 15 years or more, it certainly is an investment worth considering.

Comparing Lifespans: How Long Do Different Crowns Last?

One of the common queries about dental crowns is their longevity. The average lifespan of well-maintained dental crowns is around 15 years, with some lasting upward of 25 to 30 years. With proper aftercare, some dental crowns have the potential to last a decade or longer, and newly placed crowns can endure for up to fifteen years.

However, the lifespan of dental crowns is significantly affected by daily oral hygiene practices and the amount of wear they undergo. Clenching or grinding teeth can lead to damage and potentially reduce the longevity of dental crowns. Therefore, diligent dental hygiene, especially around the crown area, is crucial for extending crown life.

Potential Complications and How to Avoid Them

Like any dental procedure, getting a dental crown also comes with its share of potential complications. Teeth grinding and clenching can adversely affect dental crowns, potentially leading to premature wear or damage. To avoid this, using a custom-made night guard can protect crowns from damage due to teeth clenching or grinding. Wearing a mouthguard during sports can also prevent trauma.

Moreover, it’s essential to reduce exposure to acidic and sugary foods that can erode enamel around the crowns. If a dental crown feels loose, contacting a dentist immediately is crucial, as this can prevent further decay and the need for more extensive repairs.

Caring for Your Crowned Teeth

Caring for your crowned teeth is not very different from caring for your natural teeth. Good oral hygiene includes brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, paying special attention to the area where the crown meets the gum line to prevent gum disease.

Flossing and using alternatives like floss threaders or water flossers are critical for removing plaque and food particles between opposing teeth and around dental crowns. To prevent damage, it’s important to avoid using crowned teeth as tools and to minimize consumption of hard or crunchy foods and sticky candies.

Regular dental check-ups are also important for the early detection and management of issues with dental crowns, helping to maintain their longevity.

Aesthetic Considerations: Achieving a Natural Look

Achieving a natural look with dental crowns involves more than just selecting the right material. Dentists utilize specialized shade guides, natural lighting or specialized fluorescent lights, and patient dress adjustments to accurately match the color of a dental crown to the natural teeth for a cohesive appearance.

Materials like the translucent version of zirconia can offer a natural look but may slightly compromise material strength. On the other hand, monolithic zirconia, despite its multiple color options, is often deemed too opaque and can be challenging to remove if necessary.

Dentistry Advances: Modern Solutions for Crowned Teeth

Illustration of modern dentistry advances for crowned teeth

Just as technology has revolutionized many aspects of our lives, it has also brought significant advances in dentistry. CAD/CAM technology has enabled the development of same-day dental crowns by utilizing digital impressions to design and fabricate custom crowns on-site.

Benefits of same-day dental crowns include:

  • Greater convenience and less waiting time for patients

  • Crowns can be created and fitted in one dental visit

  • Precision fitting and pleasing aesthetic of crowns made from materials such as porcelain or zirconia are enhanced by CAD/CAM technology.

Digital impressions revolutionize crown creation with 3D imaging for faster and more accurate measurements, improving patient experience by eliminating traditional physical impressions. Advanced imaging technology enables dentists to analyze the color of adjacent teeth, thereby assisting in selecting the most natural shade for the dental crown.

When to Choose a Dental Implant Over a Crown

While dental crowns serve as an effective solution for many dental issues, there are instances when a dental implant is a preferable choice. Dental implants are recommended when:

  • A tooth is too damaged to be preserved and needs to be extracted

  • The surrounding teeth are healthy and can support an implant

  • The patient wants a permanent solution that looks and feels like a natural tooth

Implants are the only restoration option that replaces the full tooth, including the root, helping to prevent jawbone loss and a prematurely aged appearance. Thus, while dental crowns are an excellent solution for preserving damaged teeth, dental implants serve as a more comprehensive restoration option when the damage is too extensive.


From understanding dental crowns to exploring the different types, learning about the process of getting a permanent crown, considering the costs, and weighing the benefits against potential complications, we’ve journeyed through the world of dental crowns. With advances in dentistry, the customization, precision, and convenience of getting a dental crown have never been better. It’s a worthwhile investment in your oral health, blending seamlessly with your natural teeth and offering you a smile that not only looks great but feels great too.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three types of dental crowns?

The three main types of dental crowns are gold crowns, all porcelain crowns, and porcelain fused-to-metal crowns (PFM). Zirconia crowns are also commonly used in dentistry for their durability and lifelike appearance.

How long do crowns last on teeth?

Crowns can last between 10 and 30 years with proper care, but the placement and material of the crown also affect its lifespan.

Can dental crowns be used for front teeth?

Yes, porcelain or all-ceramic crowns are commonly used for front teeth because of their superior aesthetic appeal.

How can I care for my dental crown?

To care for your dental crown, practice good oral hygiene, avoid hard foods, and take precautions to protect the crown from damage. These measures will help maintain the longevity and functionality of your crown.

What are the potential complications with dental crowns?

Potential complications with dental crowns include premature wear or damage from teeth grinding and clenching, and it is important to seek immediate dental attention if a crown feels loose.

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