The crown serves two important functions. First, it restores the appearance of your teeth and your face. If your tooth is severely decayed or cracked, the dentist will need to restore it prior to preparing a cap. Teeth also support the muscles in our faces, so anything less than a full tooth may affect the way you look.
Second, a crown will be the same size and shape as the natural tooth. As a result, it will keep your jaw and bite aligned; it will also make sure that other teeth don't shift locations or take on a greater share of the work of biting and chewing.
Crowns are most often made of gold or porcelain. Crowns also can be made of stainless steel, but those crowns are often temporary and not designed for long-term wear.
Porcelain crowns usually are built on a metal base, which fits snugly over the natural tooth. Your dentist will choose a porcelain that matches the color of your natural teeth. Porcelain crowns usually are so carefully matched in color, they cannot be distinguished from your natural teeth. Many people choose porcelain crowns for the cosmetic appearance and the confidence it gives them.
New materials are now available that allow the use of "all-ceramic" crowns in some cases. They have a beautiful life-like appearance and short-term studies support their success, with long-term trials ongoing.
Crowns also can be made of all gold. Some people prefer not to use gold because it stands out from the other teeth in appearance. At the same time, if the crown is on a back molar, some people feel the cosmetic issue is not a big one. Your dentist will discuss the types of materials available if a crown is recommended.
Once your crown is in place, make sure the area is brushed well and that you floss below the gum line. While the crown protects your remaining tooth from further decay, you must protect the base of the crown from bacterial growth and gum disease. Regular brushing and flossing as you would your natural teeth will ensure that your crown will be in place for years to come!
By Danine M. Fresch, DDS