Everyone wants an amazing smile.
However, sometimes you need a little help to get it.
Porcelain crowns or dental crowns (also referred to as tooth or dental caps) can give you that dazzling smile that you wish for, and it can be easier than you think.
Crowns are made by taking impressions of your tooth or teeth and then customising a porcelain or metal cap – or a blend of both – and then adhering that cap to your tooth.
Dental crowns are fixed prosthetics that are permanently cemented onto your natural teeth with the purpose of covering a damaged or chipped tooth; that said, crowns also strengthen the tooth, improve the alignment of your mouth, and porcelain crowns can definitely improve the overall aesthetic appearance of your teeth and smile in general.
People get a porcelain crown or a dental crown for a variety of reasons, but mainly to fix or cover damaged teeth and to have a better smile.
If your dentist tells you that you need a crown or cap for your teeth, know that you have a variety of different options and it can be a fairly easy process with an experienced dentist.
- What is a Porcelain Crown?
- How Do You Know That You Need a Dental Crown?
- How Much Do Porcelain Crowns Cost?
- Are Dental or Porcelain Crowns Painful?
- Different Types of Dental Crowns
- What Are The Differences Between Dental Crown Types?
- Porcelain Crowns Vs Veneers
- Porcelain Crowns On Your Front Teeth
- Porcelain Crowns On Your Molars
- Porcelain Crowns Vs Metal Crowns (Fused)
- Porcelain Crowns Vs Gold Crowns
- Porcelain Crowns Vs Zirconia Crowns
- Porcelain Crown Procedures
- What To Expect At Your First Porcelain Crown Appointment
- What To Expect At Your Second Porcelain Crown Appointment
- Porcelain Crown Recovery Time
- What To Expect After a Porcelain Crown Procedure
- How Long Do Porcelain Crowns Last?
- How Do You Care For Dental Crowns?
What is a Porcelain Crown?
What Is A Porcelain Crown?
Porcelain crowns, ceramic crowns, or porcelain teeth, as they are sometimes referred to, are an option for people who have damaged teeth.
These are custom-made caps or crowns that are bonded to the tooth, fitting over it and restoring the tooth to its original size, strength, and function.
Crowns are considered to be the number one standard for protecting and strengthening a tooth that cannot be repaired with fillings or other types of dental treatments.
Porcelain crowns are crafted using tooth-coloured porcelain with the aim of blending seamlessly with your other natural teeth – so not only do they strengthen the tooth or teeth being capped, they make your smile more aesthetically pleasing.
An experienced dentist can apply porcelain crowns with minimal tooth preparation, meaning that the majority of the tooth is preserved underneath the cap.
Applying dental crowns is a specialised skill set that when performed properly and meticulously can significantly improve the longevity, strength, and appearance of your teeth.
How Do You Know That You Need a Dental Crown?
Dental crowns are considered an excellent course of treatment for broken or fractured teeth, decayed teeth, fractured fillings, large fillings, root filled teeth, or even just cosmetic enhancements.
If you have a tooth that is physically or mentally painful (based on appearance) then you should see a dentist who specializes in crowns as soon as possible.
Often, radiographs or bite-wing x-rays are used to diagnose and determine the proper fit of dental crowns.
Dental x-rays are often referred to as radiography or radiographs; the process of taking and reviewing radiographs is similar to other types of x-rays.
You should know that there are three different types of diagnostic radiographs commonly used to determine crown dental problems – periapical (sometimes called wall-mounted or intraoral), panoramic (a complete image of the mouth and jaw), and cephalometric (usually used for orthodontic treatment planning).
The type of radiograph that you’re probably most familiar with are periapical or bite-wing radiographs, which are used to diagnose many different problems as well as to examine your teeth pre-crown and post-crown application.
These involve taking images of a few teeth at a time via small film cards inserted in the mouth.
These images are used to examine your teeth before crowns are recommended, and multiple times during the process in order to make sure that your new crowns are properly fitted and comfortably allowing you to chew and bite normally.
How Much Do Porcelain Crowns Cost?
The cost of porcelain crowns depends on a whole range of elements, including the state of your teeth and your location.
For instance, in Australia, it can be fairly affordable and the costs may be even partially covered through health funds. But of course, you should always check with your dentist!
Other factors that affect the price of dental crowns include the material of the crown, the location of the tooth, the size of the tooth, and any other damage to the tooth or surrounding teeth that needs to be repaired.
In addition, different dentists may charge more or less depending on their location, experience level and difficulty.
Do you think you need a dental crown or crowns? Talk to your dentist or their office manager to get a better idea as to the cost and whether or not your insurance will cover the procedure.
Are Dental Crowns or Porcelain Crowns Painful?
Not with an experienced dentist who has successfully placed many porcelain and dental crowns!
You will be under local anesthesia and medicated while your tooth or teeth are prepped for the crown and when the crowns are applied.
Once the first appointment is over and the temporary crowns are placed, you may feel some sensitivity in your gums and around the non-permanent crown.
Upon the placement of the permanent crown you may feel some discomfort (that’s usually described as a small pinch) but the procedure will be performed under local anesthetics and topical numbing agents will be applied as well.
After the placement of the permanent crown, you may have some soreness and you will need to stick to soft foods for a while after the crowns are installed, but there should not be any significant or lingering pain.
Different Types of Dental Crowns
There are a variety of options for dental crowns, including ceramic or porcelain crowns, porcelain fused to metal, gold alloys, and base metal alloys.
Porcelain or tooth coloured crowns tend to be the most popular, because they are the most similar to your actual teeth and can blend in, so others aren’t necessarily aware that they aren’t your original teeth to begin with.
These types of dental crowns are ideal for front teeth or any teeth are particularly when you’re smiling or have your mouth open.
Porcelain crowns haven’t been considered to be as strong or sturdy as other types of dental crowns, but that is in the past and their natural look and aesthetic appeal has made porcelain a popular choice.
Recent advances in ceramic composition and bonding techniques have given porcelain crowns the strength and appearance that’s comparable to or greater than other materials like zirconia, zirconia reinforced lithium silicate crowns, and lithium disilicate crowns.
Porcelain or ceramic dental crowns are very durable and can last for many years; however, keep in mind that like most other types of dental crown restorations, they may eventually need to be replaced.
Dental crowns can also chip or otherwise be damaged – even the sturdiest porcelain could potentially chip – which will require a consultation with your dentist for a crown repair or replacement.
What Are The Differences Between Dental Crown Types?
The type of dental crown that will work best for you depends on the issues you have with your teeth as as well as your desired appearance.
The four main types of dental crowns are ceramic or porcelain, porcelain fused to metal (or metal structures with porcelain over the top, the metal in question is typically gold mixed with copper and other noble metals), gold alloy crowns, or base metal alloy crowns made of non-noble metals.
Base metal alloy crowns are usually silver-coloured.
Porcelain or porcelain fused to metal crowns are usually recommended for front or more visible teeth; while they are more fragile than metal crowns they give the crowned or capped teeth a more natural appearance.
Metal crowns are usually advised for molars or back teeth that are less visible and “harder” on the crowns since those teeth are used for chewing and grinding.
Porcelain Crowns Vs Veneers
Both porcelain crowns and veneers are used to improve the appearance of your teeth, especially if you have damage or discolouration on your front or more visible teeth.
However, veneers are generally used for more aesthetic improvement since they are made from super thin porcelain and only bonded to the front of the tooth – they don’t necessarily involve strengthening the tooth.
Rather, veneers just improve the appearance and shape while porcelain crowns encase the entire tooth and help to protect damaged teeth in addition to helping create a better aesthetic for your smile.
You should always talk with your dentist about your options for improving the health, strength, and appearance of your teeth.
They will be able to advise you as to the best options for improving, strengthening and otherwise making your teeth the best they can be.
Porcelain Crowns On Your Front Teeth
The most common spot to get porcelain crowns or related dental work is on your front teeth; after all, they are the most visible teeth and dental crowns can make the biggest and most obvious difference in your smile.
After all, damaged or otherwise imperfect teeth can be a big problem not only from a health perspective, but a self-confidence and image perspective.
Healthy looking – and feeling – teeth can make a big difference in your overall appearance and that can improve your self-image, make you look and feel younger, and generally improve your life.
Having a damaged front tooth or teeth can be difficult – not only in regard to eating and chewing and general functionality, but to your confidence in your appearance.
Porcelain crowns can make a huge difference in your oral health as well as your overall self-esteem – having that “perfect smile” will likely make you smile and laugh even more!
Porcelain Crowns On Your Molars
Porcelain crowns can also be placed on the molars or back teeth, but since these teeth are not normally visible in most cases, often metal is recommended for durability unless you are allergic to various types of metal.
Your dentist will be able to work with you to determine the best types of crowns depending on your individual problems and the location and visibility of the teeth that need to be capped or crowned.
Porcelain Crowns Vs Fused Metal Crowns
Porcelain fused to gold or other metals can provide a similar aesthetically pleasing natural look as porcelain crowns; gold-based crowns are layered with a porcelain coating which gives the crown a more natural appearance since the gold base under the porcelain isn’t visible.
You should know that while this type of crown is very strong and durable, it can chip and expose the metal underneath.
While there are reasons to use this type of crown, it may often be a better choice to use a more standard porcelain crown.
Porcelain Crowns Vs Gold Crowns
Gold crowns are often recommended for your molars or the teeth in the back of your mouth, due to the stronger bite and grinding forces of those teeth.
They are also used when the decay or breakdown of the tooth or teeth being capped is so severe that porcelain or other types of dental crowns won’t work.
While gold dental crowns are extremely strong, they can be quite visible when you smile or laugh, and of course the metal doesn’t exactly match the look of your natural teeth.
Like other kinds of dental crowns, gold crowns have similar characteristics to your natural teeth, meaning they will wear down over the years and may need to be replaced.
If you have gold dental crowns (or any other type of dental crown), you should have them checked regular for signs of wear, chipping, or other issues.
Porcelain Crowns Vs Zirconia Crowns
Zirconia or zirconium metal crowns are another common option.
Zirconia crowns are made of an opaque material which looks similar to porcelain, although it is thought that sometimes thought that they don’t look as natural as porcelain does.
Porcelain and zirconium crowns are used and applied in fundamentally the same way using similar techniques to craft and place the crowns.
Zirconia crowns became popular several decades ago and they contain approximately ninety percent zirconium oxide, which does lend them some strength and resistance to chipping, cracking, and discolouration.
They do provide a somewhat natural appearance, but lack the flexibility and customizability of porcelain crowns.
Porcelain Crown Procedures
Getting a porcelain crown or crowns can be fairly painless process.
Getting a dental crown or crowns means that you’ll have two separate appointments with your dentist – the first crown appointment is to prepare your teeth to the exacting standards required for accurately fitting a crown to the tooth.
During this first appointment, any internal cracks will be assessed via x-rays and a physical examination and any decay will be removed; these procedures are performed with local anesthesia.
Keep in mind that you may require a root canal prior to placing the crown, which may delay the whole process but is necessary for the health of your teeth.
Next a temporary crown will be placed using non-permanent cement and your bite will be checked in order to ensure that everything is properly aligned and that you can bite and chew comfortably.
This step is crucial for the long-term strength and success of your crown or crowns.
Read on to learn more about taking care of your temporary crown during the two or three weeks or so while your permanent crown is being created and customised for you.
What to Expect at Your First Porcelain Crown Appointment
The first crown appointment is also when your dentist will take some precise moulds or dental impressions that will be used to create your custom crown; this may involve taking physical moulds or digital 3D scans of your teeth, or both.
These moulds will also be used to create the temporary crown that will be placed on your tooth for approximately two weeks while the new permanent crown is fabricated at a dental laboratory.
Taking a mould or ‘impression” of your teeth can be difficult and complicated for some patients. Depending on your sensitivities and previous experiences, it may make you feel claustrophobic and may trigger your gag reflex.
If you’ve ever needed a crown, bridge, or veneer, mouthguard, braces, whitening trays or even study models then you have experienced getting a dental impression.
This process can take up to 5 minutes but can feel longer while you wait for the material to set – but with digital impressions the whole process is relatively quick and easy.
Having a dental mould or impression done is a very common procedure, but if you are one of the many patients that dislikes the process you will be glad to know there is an alternative.
There are digital impression systems like the 3Shape TRIOS that take digital “impressions” of your teeth by optically scanning your mouth. No need for the uncomfortable physical process!
Digital impressions allow dentists to create a virtual, computer-generated replica of your teeth and gums using lasers and photographs.
The digital technology captures a clear and highly accurate impression within minutes without the need for the traditional impression using the gooey materials and trays.
Most patients find digital impressions to be an easier and more comfortable procedure than traditional impressions.
A digital impression can be stopped and started to give you a break if you’re uncomfortable without affecting the final outcome.
Here’s a short list of the benefits of digital impressions:
- Increased accuracy
- Greater patient comfort
- Quicker process
- No need for gooey impression materials that can cause gagging and general discomfort
- Easier for patients with anxiety around dental treatments
- Can be stored electronically for future needs
- Environmentally friendly- no need for disposable plastic trays and impression materials
On the other hand if you’re getting traditional moulds done, impressions of your tooth or teeth are made using a paste or putty that holds the shape of the tooth (if you had a retainer as a child you’ll likely be familiar with this process).
It involves spreading the putty over the area to be copied, letting it set, and then removing it, leaving the shape of the tooth in negative relief.
Your dentist will also likely take an impression of the teeth on the opposing side of the jaw (top versus or bottom, or vice versa) to ensure that the crown matches your bite and sits well against the other set of teeth.
In both cases, the natural color of your teeth will also be recorded so that your new permanent crown can be color-matched and look virtually unnoticeable once the final porcelain crown is placed in your mouth.
This temporary crown will be removed at your next visit – it is just meant to protect your damaged, soon-to-be crowned tooth in the meantime.
Note that while you have your temporary crown you’ll need to take special care of your mouth in order to prevent fractures and dislodgement, since the temporary crowns are more fragile than the permanent crowns and not permanently bonded to your teeth.
While the temporary crown is in place, you’ll be able to eat and brush your teeth as you normally do (but skip the flossing near the temporary crown), but you should avoid extremely sticky, chewy, or especially hard or tough foods.
In addition, you should attempt to chew on the opposite side of your mouth if possible.
What To Expect At Your Second Porcelain Crown Appointment
At your second appointment (which will be about two or three weeks after your first one to give the lab time to create your customised crown), the temporary crown will be removed, the tooth will be meticulously cleaned, and your new crown will be carefully bonded to your tooth.
In some cases where the tooth in question is particularly damaged, a filling material will be used to literally fill in the damage to the tooth.
All of this will be performed with local anesthesia and numbing agents.
After the crown is placed, your bite will be checked to ensure that the crown accurately corresponds with your natural bite and chewing movements.
This appointment will conclude with instructions as to how to properly care for your new crown in order to ensure its strength and longevity; it will also be monitored at your regular dental hygiene and exam appointments.
Porcelain Crown Recovery Time
After a porcelain crown is placed, you should expect some soreness and sensitivity.
Mild discomfort is to be expected, but you should be able to resume normal activities relatively soon after you get your dental crown placed.
If local anesthetic or numbing agents were used during the procedure, your jaw and mouth area may feel numb for several hours afterwards.
There could also be some inflammation and irritation for several days after you get your crown placed, particularly around the injection sites (which are normally on the jaw area immediately around the spot where your crown is located).
The pain and inflammation from your dental crown procedures should subside on its own after a couple days, and many patients use over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen to manage it.
Topical anesthetic gels that you apply to your gums are also available from your dentist and at most pharmacies.
Keep in mind that you should avoid consuming hot liquids or attempting to chew hard foods immediately after you get a dental crown placed, because not only do you want to protect the newly installed crown, you may be unable to feel sensations like heat or pain due to the numbing agents and painkillers, which means you could potentially injure yourself.
If the tooth crown still has a live nerve in it, you may experience increased hot and cold sensitivity.
Be aware that if you experience pain or high sensitivity when you’re biting down with the newly crowned tooth, the crown may be placed too high on the tooth and your dentist will need to adjust it.
Of course, if you are experiencing significant pain, fever symptoms (which may indicate an infection or allergy), or other problems, you should call your dentist immediately.
What To Expect After a Porcelain Crown Procedure
After you get your porcelain crowns installed and your mouth is healed, you can proceed to eat and drink as you normally do, along with brushing and flossing your crown the same way you take care of the rest of your natural teeth.
You may want to switch to a toothpaste meant for sensitive teeth for at least a while after the crown procedure as well.
You should be aware that it may take a while to get used to the feeling of the crown in your mouth; if the feeling persists for several days or a week you may need to visit your dentist for an adjustment to ensure that the new crown fits your bite perfectly.
How Long Do Porcelain Crowns Last?
While porcelain crowns are strong and can last a long time, they do need to be looked after and regularly examined, and possibly replaced if they become chipped or damaged.
Small chips in porcelain crowns can be repaired with composite resin without replacing the entire crowns, while larger chips or excessive chipping may require replacing the crown completely.
Keep in mind that crowns can get loose or even fall off if the crown is improper fit or if the cement is washed out from underneath it.
If you feel that your crown is loose you should see your dentist immediately – not only may it fall off, a loose crown can cause bacteria to get underneath the crown, causing increased tooth decay and other problems.
If your crown does fall off due to damage from sticky, chewy, or hard foods or other issues, you can use over-the-counter dental adhesive or tooth cement to reattach it temporarily until you get to see your dentist for a replacement.
Be sure to call your dentist immediately if you lose a crown in any circumstance.
That said, properly fitted dental crowns should feel and operate just like your natural healthy teeth, with normal biting and chewing capabilities.
If you feel like your crowns are loose or feel insecure in your mouth, then you should contact your dentist immediately so they can be assessed and repaired or replaced as necessary.
How Do You Care For Dental Crowns?
While porcelain crowns and other types of dental crowns cannot get cavities, you still need to ensure your upgraded teeth are properly cared for, including regular brushing and flossing (the same way you care for your other natural teeth).
You can still get cavities and tooth decay underneath a porcelain or other type of crown if you do not practice proper dental hygiene.
Keep in mind that crowns can still stain, especially if you regularly consume things like coffee and red wine that tend to stain natural teeth as well.
Teeth whitening products do not work on caps or crowns, so if you want to whiten your natural teeth, you may need to discuss that with your dentist and possible replace or update your crown with white teeth caps.