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Dental crowns

Dental crowns are permanent tooth covers that are cemented to chipped, cracked or broken teeth to improve their appearance and function.

Before You Go

Questions to ask your doctor:

  • Can I replace a metal crown with a porcelain crown at another time, or are the two not interchangeable?
  • Does CAD/CAM dentistry create crowns that last as long as the traditional method?
  • Will people be able to see a metal crown if it's placed in the back of my mouth?

Pre-procedure prep for dental crowns: Dental crowns generally require two visits to the dentist: the fitting and the placing of the crown. There are no special rules to follow prior to your initial visit, but in anticipation of the crown (visit No. two), you'll want to avoid sticky, chewy, or hard foods (i.e. gum, taffy, and carrots), and chew the bulk of your food on the unaffected side of your mouth.

What To Expect

Your experience will depend on whether your dental crown is created through traditional means in an off-site lab or through CAD/CAM technology. If your dentist uses CAD/CAM dentistry (the initials stand for computer-aided design/manufacturing) she will take a topographical image of the tooth. The crown is then produced with a diamond-tipped electronic mill.

The crown is ready in under an hour, and is then tinted and cemented into the mouth. Other dentists use more traditional methods which require several appointments. During your first visit, the dentist will shave down the teeth that will be crowned. If a tooth is severely damaged or decayed, the dentist may use composite resin to build up the base tooth so that the crown has something to cleave to.

A mold of the tooth is then taken and sent to a lab. At the lab, a crown is molded to fit over the tooth. This usually takes at least a week. In the meantime, the dentist may insert a temporary crown to cover the shaved tooth.

After the crown has been fabricated and delivered to your dentist, it is checked for fit, then bonded in place. Both techniques may leave your teeth sensitive to hot and cold food and drink after their placement, but this sensitivity will lessen with time.

Who should do it: Dental crowns must be installed by a dentist or a dental surgeon licensed by your state's licensing board.

Duration: The process of placing a dental crown onto a chipped or cracked tooth may take as little as an hour (with newest specialized technology) to as long as two weeks (if the tooth is fabricated off-site). Recent developments in dental technology have been able to speed up the process of crown fabrication - a computer-aided mill can now produce custom crowns in-house.

The whole process can take as little as an hour from start to finish. If your crown is sent away to a dental lab to be built out of a mold, you'll need at least two dentist's visits - one to assess the teeth and another to place the crown atop them. Installing a crown immediately after the tooth has been ground down, instead of waiting a week or more for a replacement, can reduce the possibility of infection in the crown site.

How Painful Is It?

Dental crown's can be applied using anesthesia, so you shouldn't feel anything more than added pressure to your teeth and gums. After the procedure, you may experience moderate sensitivity in the tooth that has been crowned.

Options for anesthesia: Local or general anesthesia can be used while the tooth is drilled down and the crown is attached. Your dentist will determine the best anesthesia.

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