You may not be a princess or a prince, but—dentally speaking—a crown may be required to make you look and feel your best. Although precious metals like gold can be used, it’s the porcelain or resin ones that your dentist is most likely to recommend. Here’s a rundown on why he or she is recommending any of them to you.
Form and function
Crooked teeth? A crown can be the answer to restoring your dental symmetry. Stained teeth?
A crown can provide cover to the discoloration when whitening products or processes aren’t cutting it.
Looking good is something crowns can make you do. But more importantly, crowns provide healthy function to teeth that have been weakened by root canal work or blunt trauma. Although root canals prevent tooth decay, teeth that have undergone the procedure have had significant pulp removed and replaced with filling. The pulp—vessels and nerves and connective tissue—is the life force of any tooth. So when it has been reduced, your tooth will need all the protective help it can get.
In the same way, any tooth that has been filled multiple times or on multiple sides will have a weaker than optimal structure. So a crown can provide much-needed support. Folks who had a tooth removed and replaced with a dental implant also need a crown in order to have the right amount of functional support.
What’s not to like?
So, if crowns serve so many positive purposes, what’s wrong with that fifth dentist (or more)? It’s not necessarily the dentist, it may be the insurance. Crowns can cost several hundred to well over $1000 … per crown! If a patient doesn’t have coverage, crowns just may be cost prohibitive.
Or, like a tiara at a pool party, crowns may be overkill, some dentists believe. That’s why those dentists recommend crowns for teeth that do a lot of chewing work, but will pump the brakes when it comes to teeth that aren’t involved in constant use.
Teeth at the front of the mouth, such as canines and incisors, bear less brunt of the chewing work you do throughout the day. So if those teeth have significant pulp intact, going crownless may be just fine. Molars and premolars are a different story. You’ll always need them to be durable for the work you ask them to do. But if they are not heavily excavated, they may be able to handle the workload given the right crown material.
The most cost-effective material for crowns is composite resin. For teeth that have not been excavated severely or are not at high risk for further decay, these materials fare well. They are not meant to last forever, but could last for several years.
Use precious metal like gold or other strong metals like cobalt and nickel for your crown and it could outlast you. They are meant to last a very long time, but they don’t blend in with your white teeth in any natural way. So typically they are used only on the back teeth.
Perhaps the happy medium for crowns is ceramic or porcelain. They are not cheap, but they are cheaper than metals. They also have a natural color that will match your existing teeth.
Ultimately, you’re the ruler of your dental health. And like any leader, you need good information to make good decisions. Knowing what your insurance provider covers and what your dentist recommends for your particular tooth that needs a crown is the best intelligence around.