A dental crown usually covers the entire tooth completely, almost right down to the gum line, to minimise the risk of breakage and bacteria being trapped between the tooth crown and the natural tooth. Tooth crowns, or tooth caps as they are sometimes referred to, are designed to provide greater stability for the tooth so that it will last for a longer period of time. A tooth crown can be the ideal treatment solution to a tooth that has experienced significant damage and needs the strength and protection a tooth crown or tooth cap can provide.
The most common form of a dental crown refers to an indirect lab-made tooth crown made from porcelain ceramic, gold, zirconia, or stainless steel. An indirect tooth crown is traditionally made by a dental lab technician off-site in a dental laboratory who also makes other dental prosthetics such as dentures, mouthguards, and whitening trays. The entire process of getting a lab-made tooth crown treatment takes around two weeks with two appointments needed in total to complete. Depending on the cosmetic and aesthetic complexity involved to match the shape and color of the new tooth crown to the rest of your teeth, you might be asked to attend the dental laboratory in person for a custom tooth shade consultation to ensure the color match is correct. However, in most cases, the dentist will be able to take a set of photographs and forward these to the dental lab technician to match the tooth shade perfectly.
An alternative to lab-made dental crowns most modern dental practices now offer is a single visit tooth crown using state-of-the-art crown-making software called CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing equipment). This amazing technology eliminates the need to outsource the process of making the tooth crown with a dental laboratory and in turn saving you weeks of wearing a temporary covering and having to return to the dentist to have the treatment completed on separate days. After the tooth has been re-shaped to allow enough room to fit the new tooth crown over the top of the tooth, the dentist will take a digital scan with the CAD/CAM camera and design your crown on the spot. This initial process usually takes around 1 hour. A milling unit cuts the tooth crown out of a solid block of porcelain that is then placed inside a furnace to set the glaze and harden the material. Once your new tooth crown has been made and cooled the dentist will cement it in place, check the look and feel and make any adjustments needed. This final stage of cementing the dental crown in place takes around 30 minutes. With these latest advancements in dental technology, having a dental crown placed can be done within two hours by an experienced dentist.
There is an alternative to an indirect lab-made tooth crown using a white-colored restorative material called composite resin which is referred to as a direct composite crown. The composite resin material used for a full coverage tooth crown is the same material used for routine teeth fillings and since it does not require a lab technician or equipment to create the crown, it can be completed in a single dental visit. Patients might consider this option as it is considerably less expensive than an indirect dental crown. That said, it is important to note that direct composite resin dental crowns are not as strong and long-lasting as an indirect tooth crown made by a lab technician or CAD/CAM equipment which uses far more superior and harder wearing material. However, if the composite tooth crown is well maintained it may provide you with the added strength to prolong the life of a broken tooth for a few more years which makes it a great alternative to losing a tooth sooner than you’d like.