A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap that restores a decayed, broken, weak or worn-down tooth. Dentists also use crowns to cover dental implants and root canal-treated teeth. Made from a variety of materials, including metal, resin and porcelain, crowns last between five and 15 years with proper care.
A crown fits over your entire tooth, like a snug hat. To ensure a proper fit, a dentist will need to remove a small amount of enamel before bonding your new crown in place.
Dental technicians craft crowns from a variety of materials, including resin, metal and porcelain.
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Crowns serve several purposes. You may need a dental crown to:
There are many types of dental crowns. The kind that’s right for you depends on your personal preferences and unique oral health needs.
Dental technicians use several metals to make dental crowns, including gold, palladium, nickel and chromium. Metal crowns rarely chip or break, last the longest in terms of wear and only require a small amount of enamel removal. They can also withstand biting and chewing forces.
The metallic color is the main drawback of this type of crown. Metal crowns are a good choice for out-of-sight molars.
Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns combine the durability of metal and the natural look of porcelain. Dentists can match these crowns to the shade of your own teeth.
Despite their strength, PFM crowns have some drawbacks. For example, the porcelain coating may chip off over time, exposing the metal underneath. In addition, PFM crowns may gradually wear down the enamel on your opposing teeth (the teeth that touch your crown when you close your mouth).
PFM crowns last almost as long as metal crowns. They can restore both front and back teeth.
A pressed ceramic crown has a hard inner core. It’s similar to a PFM, but the core is ceramic instead of metal. To make this inner core, a technician melts and presses ceramic in an oven at a very high temperature. Next, they add multiple layers of porcelain. Like all-porcelain crowns, pressed ceramic crowns mimic the translucency of natural tooth enamel.
Pressed ceramic crowns have the same drawbacks as PFM crowns. The layers of ceramic can chip away over time. Dentists use pressed ceramic crowns on front and back teeth.
All-ceramic or porcelain crowns mimic the appearance of tooth enamel more than any other crown type. They’re also a good choice if you have metal allergies.
Lab technicians use many different materials to make ceramic crowns, but one of the most popular is zirconium dioxide. Zirconia crowns are extremely durable and can withstand heavier forces than other types of ceramic crowns. They’re also gentle on your opposing teeth, resulting in less enamel wear.
Many dentists use CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and manufacturing) technology to create crowns in their office while you wait. This software allows your dentist to take digital dental impressions of your teeth, and then use those impressions to design a custom crown. Once your dentist designs your crown, they’ll send the image files to an on-site milling machine. The machine will craft your new crown from a solid block of ceramic.
The main advantage of CAD/CAM technology is that you can get a dental crown in just one office visit. However, same-day crowns aren’t for everyone. Ask your dentist if you’re a candidate.
Dental crowns made out of resin are generally less expensive than other types of crowns. But they’re fragile and more likely to break compared to porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns.
Dentists often use resin to make temporary crowns. They last three to five years on average.
Dental crown placement usually requires two appointments:
Steps for a dental crown procedure include:
When the lab finishes your new crown, they’ll send it back to your dentist’s office. During a second office visit, your dentist will:
The most notable advantage of a dental crown is that it can prolong the life of a natural tooth. Specifically, crowns can:
There are also some disadvantages. For example, crowns:
Most people can resume work, school and other routine activities immediately following crown placement. However, it’s normal to experience some degree of sensitivity for a couple of weeks — especially to heat and cold.
You may also have some soreness or tenderness in your gums around the treated tooth. These side effects are normal and should go away in a few days. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers (like acetaminophen or ibuprofen) to ease any discomfort.
Whether you have a temporary or permanent crown, there are foods you should avoid, including:
These foods can damage or dislodge (pull off) your crown.
Dental crowns can last upwards of 30 years with proper care and maintenance. But you might need to replace yours sooner if it gets cracked or damaged.
The average lifespan of a dental crown is five to 15 years. If you notice wear, tear or damage, it’s time for dental crown replacement.
To keep your dental crown in good condition:
Your dental crown shouldn’t be painful. While it’s normal to have some sensitivity after crown placement, you shouldn’t have pain or discomfort that keeps you up at night.
During the procedure itself, let your dentist know if you feel pain. They can give you more anesthesia to keep you comfortable.
A dental crown fits over your entire tooth. A veneer is a thin porcelain shell that covers the front surface of your tooth. The option that’s right for you will depend on your specific goals:
There are several alternatives to crowns, depending on your oral health goals:
There’s no difference. These are two different names for the same restoration. Some people call crowns “caps” because they cover your teeth.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Dental crowns can restore worn, damaged or decayed teeth. There are several types of crowns made from a variety of materials. The type of crown that’s best for you depends on several factors, including your budget, personal preferences and oral health goals. Crowns are durable, but they’re not indestructible. They’ll need replacing at some point. Regular dental visits and proper oral hygiene can keep your crown in good condition for years to come.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/14/2023.
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