Dental Crowns: A Royal Repair for Your Smile
If your smile includes one or more broken, cracked, decayed, weak or just plain unattractive teeth, your dentist may often be able to fix the problem with dental crowns. Crowns cover or cap teeth that need help.
A crown looks and functions like a healthy, natural tooth. It can protect a fragile tooth, fill in a gap in a smile, or make a distressed tooth much more attractive.
Read on to find out how much crowns cost, whether insurance will help you pay the dentist’s bill, how crowns are made, what to expect when you are getting a dental crown, and how to care for your dental crown.
Know Your Crowns
A dental crown can be a temporary fix or a permanent one. Reasons for getting a crown (or crowns) include:
- You have a cavity that is too large for a standard dental filling
- You need a dental bridge to replace a lost tooth or teeth
- You’re getting a dental implant – the crown fits over the implant post.
- You have a badly cracked or broken tooth
- You have had a root canal, and the restored tooth needs reinforcement and protection
- You have permanently stained or discolored teeth
- You are not happy with the shape of your teeth
A temporary crown is used only during the process of creating and installing a permanent crown or other restoration. Permanent crowns are cemented in place, and would be removed only by a dental professional.
A crown can fully or partially cover a natural tooth, depending on the level of repair necessary. Crowns are also placed over dental implant posts – though most of us think of a dental implant as the visible replacement tooth, the posts set below the gum line are the actual implants. Crowns are also used to create dental bridges when a number of teeth need to be replaced or restored.
Crowns are made of porcelain or ceramic, gold and metal alloys, acrylics and composite resins. Porcelain, often bonded to an inner metal shell, is favored for its strength, resilience and natural appearance. Ceramic crowns may be more affordable. Metal alloys are generally stronger than porcelain or ceramics, and may be recommended for repairing or replacing back teeth. An all-metal gold alloy crown was once the traditional choice for longevity, but these sorts of crowns do not look like natural teeth and have been largely replaced by ceramic or porcelain.
Depending on where the crown will be placed, and the functionality required of the crowned tooth your dentist will recommend the best material/s for your crown.
Getting A Dental Crown
Your dentist will first prepare the tooth that will be crowned by removing any remaining decay and reinforcing the remaining tooth with filling or bonding material. He or she will then shape the tooth so that it can accept the crown. During this process some of the natural tooth structure will be removed. Your gums will likely be numbed during this process for your comfort. Afterwards, your mouth will be a little tender around the site where the work was performed, but you’re unlikely to experience any pain.
After preparing the tooth, your dentist will take an impression (mold) of it, and your bite. The mold and instructions for fabricating the crown may be sent to a dental laboratory technician, who will make the permanent crown—a process that could take from a week to almost a month depending on the length of the technician’s to-do list. Some dental practices now have the technology to make crowns in-house. If your dentist does this sort of work, you may be able to have your tooth prepared, crown manufactured and installed in your mouth in one day.
If you do need to wait for your permanent crown, your dentist will fit you with a temporary crown. This protects your tooth and allows you to smile and eat (soft foods only, and carefully) while your permanent crown is being made. You may be especially sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks during this time, so go slow until you know if you can enjoy hot soup or a cold drink comfortably.
When the permanent crown is ready, your dentist will remove the temporary crown and place the new one over your tooth. Some adjustments may need to be made to perfect the fit and look of your new crown. After you and your dentist are satisfied, the crown will be cemented or bonded into place. If you have any questions or concerns, bring them up before the crown is permanently affixed. While crowns can be removed by a dentist, it’s best to avoid taking them out if at all possible. If you’re unsure of the way your new crown looks or fits, you can ask your dentist to adhere it to your tooth temporarily so that you can live with it for a day or two. This may not always be possible with all crowns.
Taking Care of Your Crown
Your dentist designed your crown to withstand normal use for the replaced tooth – the biting and chewing typically performed by that tooth. While crowns tend to be highly durable, it is possible to crack or shatter one if you do things such as chew on ice, bite down hard on solid objects such as pencils, or use your teeth as tools to pry things such as containers or nuts open.
If you tend to grind or clench your teeth, your dentist may advise you to wear a night guard when you sleep, to avoid damaging the crown.
The tooth underneath your crown can decay, which would cause the crown to fall out. To avoid this, make sure to maintain good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day, floss once, and get a professional cleaning twice a year, along with regular checkups. Obviously, if your dentist advises a different hygiene routine and checkup/cleaning schedule, you should follow his or her advice.
Dental Crown Costs and Insurance Coverage
Costs depend on materials selected, complexity of the restoration and where you’re getting the work done – a dentist in a large city may charge more than one in small town. Generally, you can expect to pay between $600 to $1500 (or more) per crown.
Dental insurance will probably cover part of the cost of a crown, depending on your policy, how long you have been a plan member, whether the crown is addressing a pre-existing condition (restoration of teeth that were missing prior to your purchasing a policy are rarely, if ever, covered by insurance) and whether you have reached your deductible or annual coverage cap for the year.
Dental savings plans, an alternative to traditional dental insurance, cover part of the cost of a crown, and have no restrictions on your ability to utilize the discounted rate provided by your plan. Savings plans can be activated within 72 hours of purchase, and you can use your plan to save on crowns and other dental treatment as soon as your plan is active.
To find out more about dental savings plans, call 1-800-238-5163.