What does it mean when a dentist says a crown?  What is this crown thing?  Well you already have crowns if you have teeth.

The crown is the part of the tooth that you chew with.  The other part of the tooth is the root, which hopefully, you never get to see because it should be poking down into the gum. So when a dentist says you need a crown, it means you need a new top for the tooth.  Usually this is because the tooth is so broken down that it will not last long with just a filling.

this crown thing

What is a crown made of?  A crown can be made of gold, other metals, metal covered with ceramic or just plain ceramic.  Since the cosmetic revolution in the 90’s a lot more crowns are made of ceramic so that it looks more like a tooth.

Gold crowns were invented when gold was the only decent dental material.  Gold is still by far the longest lasting of all dental materials.  It is, however, not considered very aesthetic these days.  Mostly it tends to get used for very back teeth that take the brunt of the chewing load.  In this area, it is the material least likely to crack.

Ceramics are getting stronger and stronger and these days can be used on anyone who is not massive teeth grinder.  Ceramics are stronger than gold, but are more brittle, so can chip if you hit them just the right way.  Similar to floor tiles, they last forever, but if you drop a mug on them, you can chip the tiles.

When might you need a crown?  The most common reason you need a crown is when a filling occupies more than half of a tooth.  Fillings are generally weaker than your tooth, so you need a fair bit of tooth to support the filling, hold it in and to stop the filling wearing away.

If the tooth has too much filling, it will wear rapidly and break frequently.  The constant repair of the tooth means you are much more likely to lose the tooth.

Root canal therapy is another reason.  When root canal therapy is done, you have to make a fairly large hole in the middle of the tooth.  This weakens the tooth a lot.  The main reason teeth with root canal therapy fail is when the filling falls out of the tooth and the tooth fractures.  This lets saliva into the tooth.  Saliva is full of bacteria which then cause new infection in the root canal (and then an abscess).

Sometimes a crown is done on front teeth to mask really dark stains.  Sometimes a tooth is very darkly stained from trauma and the stain cannot be bleached out of the tooth.

Occasionally crowns are done in a group to correct severely worn or misshapen teeth to correct damage and improve the look of the smile.

multiple crowns
Multiple Crowns

Like any dentistry, not matter how strong it is, you will be able to destroy it if you do not look after it.  Most crowns fail because people do not keep them clean and they get decay.  If you have crowns  and you also have badly worn teeth, you should ask your dentist to make you a bite guard.  It is well established that most people grind their teeth, but not always hard enough to do damage.  So if you have worn teeth, you will likely wear out your new crown as well.

And like most things, doing it right the first time will be less expensive than compromising and then fixing the crown again later.

Individual results may vary, Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks.  Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.