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Exploring Dental Crowns

Many people visit their dentists and learn they have a tooth that requires a crown. In many instances, dental crowns are necessary for proper tooth care. Crowns were once widely referred to as “caps.” A crown is a permanent cover for a tooth that would otherwise require a very large filling after dental decay has been removed. Crowns also may be used to repair cracked or broken teeth so that extraction is not necessary. Sometimes crowns are used for cosmetic modifications or to hold a dental bridge in place. The crown itself can be made from different materials, like stainless steel, gold or metallic alloy, porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, and resin. A dentist will determine which material will work best depending on the application and tooth location.

Understanding Your Appointment(s)

Crowns are typically installed in two appointments. The first appointment requires prep work so the tooth can hold the crown. This is typically a painless procedure, and one in which the dentist will anesthetize the tooth and gum tissue and then file down the tooth along the chewing surface and sides to make room for the crown covering. If the tooth was decayed or insubstantial, the dentist may have to “build up” the tooth instead of filing it down. Again, these determinations are made by the dentist who has the expertise to gauge how much workable tooth is left.

Once the tooth has been prepared, an impression will be made of the bite area. That’s because the permanent crown will be fabricated in a laboratory and the fit/color will need to be exact for comfort — and also to ensure that bacteria and food debris do not get caught between the crown and tooth. The final component is a temporary cap that will keep the prepared tooth clean. This is molded in the office and will be worn only until the custom-made crown is ready. When the permanent crown is delivered, the patient will return to the office to have it checked for fit and then cemented into place.

Full and Partial Crowns

A partial crown may be used if only a portion of the tooth needs to be covered. Dentists will often rely on full crowns to get maximum coverage and strength.

Cost Factor

Crowns can be expensive. According to the resource CostHelper, crowns can range from $500 to $3,000 depending on the material used and the patient’s insurance coverage. Dental insurance may cover a predetermined percentage of the cost when the crown is medically necessary, but insurance may not cover anything if the procedure is only cosmetic. It’s always a good idea for patients to express their concerns and ask questions about crowns prior to starting the procedure. Understanding the potential out-of-pocket costs is essential as well. Dental crowns can last several years and represent the best way to salvage a tooth that is cracked or damaged.