Crowns are often used for tooth restorations, especially when the tooth has been severely damaged, cracked, or treated with a root canal. Dental crowns and bridges are also used together to replace missing teeth.
Uses for Crowns
Crowns are occasionally used for cosmetic purposes, but usually they’re reserved for restorations. Cosmetic problems that at one time might have been treated with crowns are now more often addressed with veneers. For restorations, though, crowns are still quite common. They can help preserve teeth that might otherwise need to be extracted, such as in cases of:
- Severe decay
- Broken-off teeth
- Teeth that have already been filled and have cracked or decayed further
- Teeth treated with a root canal procedure
Another common use for crowns is to anchor bridges. A prosthetic tooth is anchored to an adjacent tooth using a crown. The crown provides a more natural look to the replacement tooth than using wires to anchor it in place. The adjacent tooth must be ground down to make room for the crown, making this approach a more invasive procedure than using wires, which require less restructuring.
Types of Crowns
Crowns can be made of metal—usually gold—as well as tooth-colored materials such as porcelain. Some crowns, usually placed on deciduous (baby) teeth, are made of stainless steel. These help protect the tooth but are not as expensive as gold crowns, which is more convenient for teeth that will soon fall out to make way for permanent teeth.
For those who do not wish to have metal crowns, or for front teeth where metal isn’t desirable, porcelain crowns are often used instead. Porcelain isn’t always as practical for molars, though, because metal handles the stress of chewing better. Another option is metal bonded with porcelain, which combines the strength of a metal filling with the natural color of porcelain. Since a prosthetic tooth is generally made of tooth-colored materials, porcelain crowns are also more appropriate for crowns and bridges. Metal crowns tend to last longer than porcelain, although porcelain is also quite durable.
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