A dental crown is a restorative dentistry treatment that is placed over a tooth to improve strength, shape or appearance. Dental crowns, also called "caps," are also used as the final restoration for dental implants, serving as the replacement for the artificial tooth. Although there are several different materials that can be used for dental crowns, most cosmetic dentists recommend all-porcelain dental crowns because they provide the most natural-looking restorations as they closely resemble the color and texture of natural teeth.
Dental crowns are used when more conservative dental restorations cannot be used to improve the strength or appearance of a damaged tooth. Your dentist will determine what procedure you are eligible for based on your existing dental health and the aesthetic and functional benefits of a restorative dentistry treatment. The following are common reasons dental crowns are used to restore teeth:
Before it is determined that a patient requires a dental crown to restore their tooth, their dentist will perform a thorough evaluation of their dental health to determine if they would benefit from a less invasive procedure. Once it is decided that a dental crown will be used to restore a tooth, the first step is to prepare the tooth to receive the crown and the second step is to place it.
To determine the integrity of the receiving tooth, your dentist will first take x-rays to examine the roots of the tooth as well as the surrounding bone. If extensive decay exists or the tooth's pulp is infected, a root canal treatment may be necessary before the dental crown is placed.
After x-rays are taken, the tooth is prepared by reducing tooth structure to make room for the crown. The amount of tooth structure the dentist removes depends on the extent of damage and the material being used, either gold or porcelain. After the tooth is reshaped, an impression of the tooth will be made to ensure the restoration is functional and ensures a proper bite. The impression is then sent to a lab and will be matched to the shade of the existing teeth. A temporary crown is placed until the permanent crown is sent back from the lab and then is removed so that the permanent crown can be cemented into place on the next visit. The new restoration will be checked for color, fit and aesthetics to ensure proper dental health and function.
Modern dental technology has allowed for the capability of single visit dental crowns and restorations. Using a chairside computer and milling unit, called the CEREC, dentists can now make porcelain crowns, inlays and onlays quickly in the office and bond them to the tooth in a single appointment. The CEREC (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics) machine allows patients and dentists to avoid impressions and dental laboratory wait times. The CEREC utilizes digital impressions that are prepared with an infrared camera. The digital impression appears as a 3D model on a computer screen and the dentist is able to design the dental crown on the computer until they are satisfied with the result. Next, the design is sent to the milling unit which creates the restoration out of porcelain block that can then be bonded to the tooth.
The cost of dental crowns will vary depending on the expertise of the dentist as well as their location and the type of crown the patient desires. Gold crowns require the least amount of tooth structure to be removed and are generally less expensive than porcelain crowns. However, the higher the percentage of gold used the more expensive the gold crown will be. These crowns typically cost between $1,000 and $1,400. Porcelain crowns are the most expensive type of crown, and can range from $1,000 to $2,000 depending on the training of the dentist.