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If you’ve ever had cavity or broken tooth your dentist probably used a crown for the repair. Some people get a white crown, some get silver, some get gold and others may have all three! You may have wondered why you even have that dental crown. Let’s talk about why dental crowns are used and what the options are for your tooth.
What are the basics?
A dental crown, sometimes called a cap, is an indirect restoration in dental lingo. This means that the crown is made outside of the patient’s mouth. First, the dentist will remove any tooth decay, old filling material and all unstable tooth structure. Second, the tooth is shaped so the cap can fit over the top. Finally, a special glue called dental cement will help hold your new tooth in place.
White, silver, gold, which color is best?
The color of your tooth indicates the material that is used. Here are some of the most common materials:
- Porcelain-fused to Metal – This is the “old type” of white crown. It consists of a metal base with porcelain glued on top. The base is extremely durable but sometimes the porcelain chips off. As dental materials improve, this is being used less and less.
- White — This is the “new type” of white crown. They are metal free and typically made of a ceramic material called lithium disilicate. These are very esthetic and ideal for restoring front teeth. Zirconium is another “all-white” material used in dentistry. It offers superior esthetics and the strength is comparable to porcelain-fused-to-metal restorations.
- Gold – This is usually a mix of gold, copper and other metals. Gold allows for a minimal amount of tooth structure to be removed. Gold has physical properties similar to natural teeth, enabling the gold crown to last longer. If it wasn’t for that shiny yellow color this material choice would be hard to beat. Also, the high price of gold can cause this option to cost twice that of a regular crown.
- Silver – This is a basic crown made of non-noble metals. They usually contain nickel, which can cause an allergic reaction in many people. Sometimes this can result in gums that are purple in appearance. Also, some patients experience irritation or recession of their gums.
Why get a crown, can’t the tooth be fixed with a big filling?
Generally speaking, a dentist prefers the most conservative treatment which typically is a filling. Your tooth will not grow back so the more structure that can be left intact the better. However, once decay weakens too much tooth or a large piece breaks off, a crown is indicated. A cap is able to cover a damaged or broken tooth, strengthening the remaining tooth structure. It may wrap 360 degrees around the tooth, holding everything together. Additionally, it can be designed to improve the overall alignment and cosmetics of the tooth.
How long should a new cap last?
Many dental insurance companies will pay for a new crown every 5 years. With proper brushing, flossing and regular dental cleanings, it can last 15 years or more.
So what kind should I get?
If your tooth needs a fix, talk with your dentist about your options. You can weigh the costs and benefits to determine which indirect restoration is right for you. There is no one size fits all solution and by making an informed decision you may find a fix that lasts a lifetime.