If one of your teeth has been badly damaged - by use, decay, injury, or extensive filling - we may recommend fitting a crown. A crown is a custom-made porcelain tooth that looks like a natural tooth, and is fitted over the site of a damaged one to restore its function and appearance. More than one crown can be linked together to fill a space left by missing teeth - this is known as a bridge.
Crowns not only make teeth look better, but also make them stronger and protect them from further damage. But patients can be concerned about having a crown fitted; these are some of the questions that our patients have asked, with the answers we give.
Can any tooth be crowned?
If your tooth has very extensive previous damage, it may not be possible to crown it; we can advise you on this.
Can't you spot a crown?
Early crowns were made of weak porcelains and were fused with metal to strengthen them - this often meant they looked unnatural. Modern strong porcelains bond to the tooth and can reproduce the light, shade and colour of natural teeth so that it's more or less impossible to tell that a crown is not your own tooth.
What's involved in having a crown?
First we investigate the problem tooth to find out what condition it's in and assess the type of crown you need. We then prepare your mouth, which may sometimes - but not always - mean drilling the tooth to create the space and shape that the new crown will take up.
Then we take impressions of your mouth and discuss the colour and appearance that you want. We send this information to the laboratory where they make the crown. While you're waiting, we fix a temporary crown so that you don't have a gap in your mouth.
Once the crown is made, we fix it into position using a dental adhesive or cement, then check and correct your bite.
Do I need a root canal treatment first?
No, only in exceptional circumstances. In fact, it's best not to have a root canal treatment before you have a crown because a crowned tooth with a healthy nerve inside will last much longer than a root canal-filled tooth. And root canal-filled teeth can present particular problems for placing a crown because they may require a retaining post to be inserted into the root.
Won't the crown fall out?
When we fit your crown, we fix it with strong polymer adhesives, so it's very unlikely to come away. In fact, crowns usually fall out only if they're the wrong shape for your bite, or if the underlying tooth decays or breaks. We plan your treatment carefully to avoid these problems; you can help by cleaning your mouth thoroughly once the crown is fitted, so that the underlying tooth stays healthy and strong.
Will I be able to feel the crown?
When your crown is first fitted, it can feel unfamiliar. But long-term, a well-fitted crown, cemented or bonded to the tooth and correctly adjusted to your mouth, should feel the same as your natural teeth do.
Are crowns expensive?
The initial cost of a crown is high. But because crowns may be expected to last at least three or four times longer than fillings if you care for them properly, they usually give you a cheaper solution in the long term.
Should I be careful when eating?
While your mouth is being prepared for the crown you may have to temporarily restrict your diet to soft foods. Once the crown is fitted, it will be a natural part of your mouth and you shouldn't need to change your normal eating patterns. That said, chewing pens, hairpins and other hard objects isn't a good idea - whether or not you have crowns.
Can I forget about crowned teeth?
It's a myth that crowns need less care and attention than natural teeth; they actually need more. The crown itself can't decay, but decay can start where the edge of the crown joins the tooth, particularly where this join is hidden below the level of the gum line. And decay not only makes it more likely the crown will fall out, but will also worsen your general oral health. You have to brush well, floss daily and of course make regular visits to our hygienist.
Should I have all my teeth crowned?
No. Crowns are only useful in situations where a filling can't restore the tooth's function or where the filling is so large that the tooth is vulnerable to further damage and needs additional protection