A Complete Guide to Dental Crowns: Everything You Need to Know

A Complete Guide to Dental Crowns: Everything You Need to Know By Dr. Jon ( Junyi ) Ho | August 16, 2023

Imagine flashing a charming smile, confident in the appearance of your teeth. A complete smile isn’t just great for aesthetics. It also plays a crucial role in your overall dental health and functionality.

But what if you’re dealing with weakened teeth or if you have a chipped, cracked, or worn-down tooth? Well, that’s where dental crowns come in as a valuable part of a smile makeover procedure.

In this guide, we’ll explore the world of dental crowns. We will talk about the following:

  • the types of dental crowns
  • dental crown materials used
  • benefits of dental crowns
  • cost of dental crowns

And because we want your smile to stay bright and healthy, we’ll share how to care for dental crowns. So, buckle up and get ready to transform your smile!

Summary of the Content:

  • Dental crowns, or “caps,” are long-term prosthetic devices attached to teeth to improve their strength and appearance and protect them. Dental crowns can also be attached to implants. 

  • They can restore a damaged tooth’s appearance and function, cover discoloured or poorly shaped teeth, and protect a weak tooth from further damage.

  • Crowns can be used for cracked or broken teeth, teeth with large fillings, or teeth that have undergone root canal therapy.

  • Types of crowns include metal, porcelain-fused-to-metal, resin, porcelain, and zirconia crowns.

  • The process of getting a dental crown includes consultation, tooth preparation, impression taking, temporary crown placement, and dental crown cementation. A dental crown treatment can be completed in at least two dental visits.

  • Dental crowns may involve irreversible procedures like trimming the teeth, tooth sensitivity, risk of gum damage, and risk of chipping or loosening.

  • The cost of dental crowns can be up to $2,100, depending on the type of crown, choice of material used, and any additional treatments.

  • Caring for dental crowns involves practising good oral hygiene, avoiding hard foods, regular dental visits, and more.

What are Dental Crowns?

Dental crowns, also known as “caps,” are fixed prosthetic devices attached on top of teeth or implants. They serve as a long-term dental restoration and provide an array of benefits for your oral health. Here are a few key functions:

  • Restoring Strength:
    Dental crowns work like a protective shell around a damaged tooth. Be it a fractured tooth or a tooth with a large filling, a crown provides reinforcement, restoring the tooth’s natural structure and normal biting function. The entire crown encases the tooth, enhancing its durability and stability.

  • Improving Appearance:
    Dental crowns offer an aesthetic solution to various dental issues. They provide a natural look, improving the appearance of discoloured or poorly shaped teeth. Whether it’s a porcelain-fused-to-metal crown or a full-ceramic crown, they can be customised to blend with natural teeth, contributing to a beautiful, natural-looking smile.

  • Protection:
    Dental crowns serve as protection for teeth weakened by extensive decay or damage or a tooth that has undergone a root canal treatment, shielding it from further damage or infection.

Dental crowns are versatile and can address an array of dental conditions:

  • Cracked or Broken Teeth:
    Dental crowns can restore the natural shape and size of a cracked or broken tooth. It can also prevent the breakage of weak or decayed teeth. Dental crowns act as a protective cover, preserving the natural tooth structure underneath.

  • Large Fillings:
    When there’s a tooth with a large filling or fillings on multiple surfaces, a dental crown can provide the much-needed support to compensate for the minimal tooth structure left, making the tooth stronger and able to function properly. 

  • After a Root Canal:
    Post root canal therapy, teeth can become brittle and more susceptible to breakage. Dental crowns can protect these vulnerable teeth to maintain their longevity.

Types of Dental Crowns

men dentist wearing protective face mask examining a patient.

The world of dental crowns is diverse, offering various options, each with its unique advantages and drawbacks. Here are the different types of dental crowns classified according to the materials used:

  • Metal Crowns:
    Crafted from gold, platinum, or base-metal alloys, metal crowns are known for their exceptional strength. They are a durable type of crown, making them an excellent option for restoring molars. However, their metallic colour may not appeal to those seeking a natural look.

  • Porcelain-fused-to-metal Crowns:
    These crowns strike a balance between strength and aesthetics. They are usually made of a metal base covered by a layer of porcelain. They blend with your natural tooth colour, and they’re strong enough to withstand high forces. 

  • Resin Crowns:
    Made from acrylic resin or composite material, resin crowns are less costly than other types of crowns. They’re affordable, yet they’re only considered temporary restorations, as they wear down over time and are more prone to fractures compared to other crown types.

  • Ceramic or Porcelain Crowns:
    These crowns offer an excellent natural colour match, making them a popular choice for those seeking a visually pleasing option. They’re also a good choice for people with metal allergies. However, they aren’t as strong as porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns and can wear down over time.

  • Zirconia Crowns:
    Known for their strength and translucent appearance, zirconia crowns mimic the look of natural teeth. Zirconia crowns are more durable than porcelain crowns, making them a good option for restoring molars.

The choice of crown depends on various factors, including the tooth’s location, the colour of the surrounding teeth, the patient’s preference, the cost, and dental crown materials. Always consult with your dentist to make an informed decision.

The Procedure for Getting Dental Crowns

The journey to obtaining dental crowns is not a quick one. The process requires at least two dental appointments. Here’s an in-depth look at the process from consultation to the final placement:

  1. Consultation and Examination:
    The first step involves an initial visit to your professional dentist for an examination of your teeth. Your dentist will meticulously inspect your teeth to assess the need for a dental crown. This will involve taking X-rays to thoroughly check the roots of the tooth slated to receive the crown and the surrounding bone structure. If you’re a regular patient, this process may be smoother as your dentist already has a good grasp of your dental history.

  2. Tooth Preparation:
    Once the need for a dental crown is confirmed, the dentist embarks on the preparation of the tooth. This stage involves trimming the outer portion of the tooth to create sufficient space to accommodate the crown. In some cases where additional tooth structure is needed to support the crown, a core made of composite filling material is used.

  3. Impression Taking:
    Following the reshaping of the tooth, the dentist proceeds to make an impression of the prepared tooth, adjacent teeth, and gums. These impressions play a crucial role in the dental crown procedure as they are sent to a dental laboratory for the fabrication of the dental crown. Depending on your choice, the crown can be made of metal, porcelain, resin, or zirconia. 

  4. Temporary Crown Placement:
    While the dental crown is being fabricated in the laboratory, your dentist will attach a temporary crown onto your prepared tooth using temporary cement. This provisional crown serves to protect the prepared tooth from damage as you wait for your dental crown. 

  5. Final Crown Cementation:
    During this appointment, your dentist will remove the temporary crown and cement the final dental crown in place. Adjustments will be made as needed so that the crown fits well with your natural tooth and your bite.

The dental crown procedure requires at least two visits to the dentist over the course of two weeks.

The first visit involves preparing (shaping) the tooth, taking an impression, and placing a temporary crown. This appointment usually takes 1-1.5 hours. 

In the second visit, the dentist will remove the temporary crown, evaluate the final dental crown’s fit and then cement it in place. This step usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour. 

So, in total, the entire process takes about 2-2.5 hours of actual chair time, spread over a two-week period.

Benefits of Dental Crowns

Dental crowns offer a wide range of benefits, from aesthetic enhancements to functional improvements. Here are some key benefits:

  • Aesthetic Improvement:
    Dental crowns play a significant role in cosmetic and implant dentistry. They improve the appearance of a discoloured tooth or misshapen tooth. Dental crowns can be fabricated to match the colour of your natural teeth, contributing to a natural-looking smile that enhances your overall appearance.

  • Restored Function:
    Dental crowns restore the normal function of your tooth. With a crown in place, you can enjoy your favourite foods without discomfort or worry about causing further damage to your tooth.

  • Protection:
    Dental crowns serve as a shield, protecting weak teeth from further damage or decay. They also safeguard a tooth after a root canal treatment, reducing the risk of breakage since root-canal-treated teeth usually become brittle. 

  • Longevity:
    With extra care, dental crowns can last many years, providing a durable and long-term restoration for damaged or decayed teeth.a

Limitations and Risks of Dental Crowns

Dental crowns, a common form of custom-made restoration, offer several benefits, yet they are not without limitations and risks:

  • Irreversible Procedure:
    Preparing a tooth for a dental crown is an irreversible procedure. It involves the removal of a significant amount of the natural tooth structure to make room for the crown. This process alters the natural tooth core, leaving only enough to support the crown. As such, this is a major risk factor to consider, especially if the tooth under consideration is a front tooth. 

  • Tooth Sensitivity:
    Newly-crowned teeth may experience sensitivity to temperature changes, reacting to both heat and cold. While this sensitivity often subsides over time, in some cases, it may persist. When this happens, consult your dentist so they can determine the cause of prolonged tooth sensitivity. 

  • Damage to Surrounding Gums:
    A dental crown that is not cleaned regulary can contribute to the development of gum disease. In the same way, ill-fitting crowns can also cause gum disease since plaque can accumulate in the space between the tooth and the crown. When this happens, removal and replacement of the crown is needed, as well as gum disease treatment. 

  • Chipping:
    Dental crowns can chip, especially those made with porcelain. Porcelain is usually chosen for its aesthetic appearance and durability, but even with improved strength, porcelain and other ceramic materials remain brittle and are still prone to breakage when exposed to high forces.

  • Loosening:
    Over time, the cement that holds the crown in place can wash out, causing the crown to loosen. Loosening can also be caused by the decay of the tooth underneath the crown. This usually occurs as a result of poor oral hygiene and may necessitate root canal treatment or tooth extraction

While these risks exist, they are relatively rare. By choosing an experienced dentist and with proper care, crowns can be a safe and effective treatment for various dental issues.

Dental Crowns vs. Other Dental Treatments

Dental crowns are one of the numerous dental treatments for restoring and enhancing your smile. Let’s consider how they compare to other common options:

  • Veneers:
    Unlike dental crowns that cover the entire tooth surface, veneers are thin shells placed on the front surface of the tooth. They’re a common treatment option for addressing discolouration and minor shape issues. However, they don’t offer the same level of protection as dental crowns. Veneers mainly improve the aesthetic appearance, giving a beautiful smile, but they don’t provide the strength and protection that crowns do.

  • Implants:
    Dental implants replace the entire tooth—root and all. Because of this, they are considered to be the closest match to natural teeth. They involve the placement of an artificial root in the form of titanium implant posts into the jawbone, followed by a crown or false teeth. Dental implants are an excellent replacement for missing teeth, but if a natural tooth is still present and can still be restored, a dental crown is the preferred conservative treatment. Dental implants are an excellent option, but they’re generally more invasive than crowns.

  • Bridges:
    A dental bridge fills a gap left by one or more missing teeth. It uses adjacent teeth as anchors, which often need to be fitted with dental crowns, making the bridge well-fitted. A bridge, combined with the use of crowns, is an important part of cosmetic and implant dentistry, helping to restore a healthy smile.

When considering these treatments, weighing the pros and cons with your dentist, who can provide valuable insights based on their skills, knowledge, and experience, is essential.

Cost of Dental Crowns in Australia

In Australia, the cost of dental crowns can vary significantly based on several factors. You can expect to pay up to $2,100 per crown. Remember, though, that the final price depends on aspects like:

  • Type of Crown:
    The choice of materials affects the cost, with zirconia crowns typically being more costly than metal-based crowns.

  • Dental Laboratory:
    Fees vary between laboratories, especially if a complex design is required or if the crown is made overseas.

  • Additional Treatments:
    If you need treatments like root canal therapy or a dental filling before the crown placement, this will add to the total cost.

Thankfully, several payment options can help make the cost more manageable:

  • Health funds:
    Many Australian health funds provide partial coverage for dental crowns. Depending on your policy, these health funds can help offset the cost of dental crowns, making it a more affordable option. It’s important to check with your health fund provider to understand the extent of coverage and any out-of-pocket expenses you may incur.

  • Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS):
    Eligible children aged 2-17 can receive up to $1,000 over two calendar years for basic dental services, including crowns. This program is designed to assist with the cost of dental care for children, allowing for preventative and restorative procedures. It’s crucial to check your child’s eligibility and the specific services covered under the CDBS.

  • Medicare’s Public Dental Scheme (MPDSS):
    Some public dental services offer crowns to eligible patients at reduced costs. This can significantly decrease the financial burden for individuals who qualify. However, it’s essential to understand that the availability of these services can vary depending on the state or territory.

  • Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) card holders:
    DVA card holders may receive free dental treatments. This benefit can cover a wide range of dental services, including crowns, making dental care more accessible for our veterans. DVA card holders are advised to verify their eligibility and the range of services covered by their healthcare provider.

  • Afterpay:
    This service lets you break up the cost of your crown into smaller, more manageable payments. Instead of paying the full amount upfront, Afterpay allows you to spread the cost over several payments, making it easier on your budget. It’s a convenient tool but remember to stay within your financial means to avoid any potential stress or difficulties.

  • Early Super Release:
    In some cases, you may be able to access your superannuation early to pay for dental treatment. This can be a lifeline for those struggling with the immediate costs of dental procedures. But it’s important to carefully consider this option as it may impact your financial stability in the long term, especially your retirement savings.

How to Care for Dental Crowns

With proper care, dental crowns can last for many years. Here are some tips for maintaining your crowns and prolonging their lifespan:

  • Practice a good dental hygiene routine:
    Brush twice a day, floss daily, and rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash to keep your mouth clean and healthy. This helps prevent gum disease and tooth decay that can undermine the crown and the underlying tooth.

  • Avoid hard foods:
    While dental crowns are durable, they’re not indestructible. Try to avoid chewing hard foods like ice or hard candy, which could damage your crown. Also, sticky foods like caramel or taffy can dislodge a crown if it’s not fully cemented or if it has begun to loosen.

  • Don’t use your teeth as tools:
    Opening packages or bottles with your teeth can cause your crown to crack or chip. It’s important to remember that while crowns are designed to restore the functionality of your teeth, they are not designed to withstand excessive forces that are not naturally encountered while eating.

  • Visit your dentist regularly:
    Regular dental visits allow your dentist to monitor the condition of your dental crown and take action if any issues arise. Regular check-ups make sure that any potential problems can be caught early, helping to maintain the longevity of your crown.

  • Limit teeth-grinding:
    If you’re prone to grinding or clenching your teeth, this can cause significant damage to your crown over time. Discuss with your dentist about potential solutions, such as wearing a nightguard while you sleep.

  • Maintain a balanced diet:
    Eating a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and fresh produce can help maintain your gum health and the remaining tooth structure under the crown. This, in turn, helps prolong your dental crown’s lifespan.

  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol:
    Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to oral health issues, which can adversely affect your dental crowns. Therefore, it’s advisable to quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption.

Dental crowns require the same level of care as your natural teeth. So keep up with your oral health care, and enjoy the strength and aesthetic appearance that dental crowns offer.

Final Thoughts

Dental crowns are undoubtedly a significant stride in modern dentistry, offering a potent solution to many dental issues. From restoring strength to improving appearance and from protection to longevity, dental crowns serve an array of benefits that contribute to a healthier, stronger, and more radiant smile. They are a testament to the advancements in modern technology, providing a functional and aesthetically pleasing option for tooth restoration.

We believe that everyone deserves a healthy, beautiful smile, and dental crowns can be a significant part of achieving that.

At Darch Dental Centre, our professional dentists are committed to providing you with quality dental care. We are here to guide you through the process, discussing the pros and cons of the different types of dental crowns, helping you understand the procedure, and assisting you in making the most beneficial decision for your oral health.

If you’re considering dental crowns or have any questions about the procedure, we encourage you to book a consultation appointment with us. Our team is ready to answer your questions, address your concerns, and guide you on the path to better oral health.

We offer flexible appointment times and strive to provide our patients with a welcoming and comfortable environment. You can book an appointment by calling us at Darch Dental Centre or scheduling a consultation through our website. We look forward to helping you achieve your dream smile.

Remember, your dental health is a vital part of your overall well-being. It’s never too late to start taking steps towards a healthier, happier smile. So why wait? Contact us today and take the first step towards a healthier, more confident you.

Dr. Jon ( Junyi ) Ho

Dr. Jon is a Perth-based dentist who graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Science in 2005 from the University of Western Australia. He has worked at a range of dental practices, including being a partner and principal dentist for a group of five dental surgeries in Sydney. Dr. Jon has been practising for over a decade in the northern suburbs of Perth. He provides treatment for patients in Darch, Madeley, Landsdale, Kingsway, Kingsley, Marangaroo, Alexander Heights, Wangara, Ellenbrook, and others.

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