Your oral health and comfort can be jeopardized when your teeth sustain damage. Deep cracks, severe pain, and possible tooth loss can occur if you don’t receive treatment for a structurally unstable tooth. If your tooth needs more than a regular filling to restore its integrity, your dentist may choose a dental crown. Also called a cap, a dental crown fits securely over any tooth structure above the gum line.
Depending on the extent of damage and the location of the tooth, your dentist will place a ceramic, porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM), or metal crown. Usually, porcelain crowns are recommended for teeth that are visible when you smile. Because the human bite can exert about 50 pounds of pressure in the back of the mouth, the chewing force can be as powerful as 200 lbs, which could destroy a ceramic crown. Typically, all-metal, porcelain-fused-to-metal, or zirconia crowns are used for back teeth.
Sometimes, damage occurs to a tooth that doesn’t need a crown, but is too severe for a filling. Inlays and onlays offer a good solution. Constructed from solid ceramic or metal materials, these partial crowns are stronger than traditional fillings. Inlays cover the cusps (bumps) on top of a tooth; onlays fit over a cusp and down the side of the tooth.
Crown placement usually takes two appointments. At the first visit, your dentist will remove the damaged tissue, reshape the tooth, and take impressions for the custom restoration. Your doctor will also place a temporary crown. Final placement will occur at the second appointment, once the dental office receives the permanent restoration.