Dental crowns, also known as "caps," preserve the functionality of damaged teeth. Crowns may be used to protect a cracked tooth, restore functionality of a tooth with excessive decay or a large existing filling, or replace a pre-existing crown. The purpose of a dental crown is to encase a needy tooth with a custom-designed material.
What Steps Are Involved in Preparing a Tooth for a Crown?
Preparing a tooth for a crown usually requires two visits to the dentist -- the first step involves examining and preparing the tooth, the second visit involves placement of the permanent crown.
First Visit: Examining and preparing the tooth.
At the first visit in preparation for a crown, your dentist may take a few X-rays to check the roots of the tooth receiving the crown and surrounding bone. If the tooth has extensive decay or if there is a risk of infection or injury to the tooth's pulp, a root canal treatment may first be performed. Before the process of making a crown begins, your dentist will anesthetize (numb) the tooth and the gum tissue around the tooth. Next, the tooth receiving the crown is filed down along the chewing surface and sides to make room for the crown. The amount removed depends on the type of crown used (for instance, all-metal crowns are thinner and require less tooth structure removal than all-porcelain or porcelain-fused-to-metal ones). If, on the other hand, a large area of the tooth is missing (due to decay or damage), your dentist will use filling material to "build up" the tooth to support the crown. After reshaping the tooth, your dentist will use a paste or putty to make an impression of the tooth to receive the crown. Impressions of the teeth above and below the tooth to receive the dental crown will also be made to make sure that the crown will not affect your bite.
The impressions are sent to a dental lab where the crown will be manufactured. The crown is usually returned to your dentist's office in two to three weeks. If the crown is made of porcelain, your dentist will also select the shade that most closely matches the color of the neighboring teeth. During this first office visit your dentist will make a temporary crown to cover and protect the prepared tooth while the crown is being made. Temporary crowns usually are made of acrylic and are held in place using temporary cement.
Second Visit: Receiving the permanent dental crown.
At the second visit, your dentist will remove the temporary crown and check the fit and color of the permanent crown. If everything is acceptable, a local anesthetic will be used to numb the tooth and the new crown is permanently cemented in place.
How Should I Care for My Temporary Dental Crown?
Because temporary dental crowns are just that -- a temporary fix until a permanent crown is ready -- most dentists suggest that a few precautions. These include:
Avoid sticky, chewy foods (for example, chewing gum, caramel), which have the potential of grabbing and pulling off the crown.
Minimize use of the side of your mouth with the temporary crown. Shift the bulk of your chewing to the other side of the mouth.
Avoid chewing hard foods (such as raw vegetables), which could dislodge or break the crown.
Slide flossing material out-rather than lifting out-when cleaning your teeth. Lifting the floss out, as you normally would, might pull off the temporary crown.