A crown is a type of dental restoration which completely caps or encircles a tooth or dental implant. Crowns are often needed when a large cavity threatens the ongoing health of a tooth. They are typically bonded to the tooth using a dental cement. Crowns can be made from many materials, which are usually fabricated using indirect methods. Crowns are often used to improve the strength or appearance of teeth. While inarguably beneficial to dental health, the procedure and materials can be relatively expensive.
The most common method of crowning a tooth involves using a dental impression of a prepared tooth by a dentist to fabricate the crown outside of the mouth. The crown can then be inserted at a subsequent dental appointment. Using this indirect method of tooth restoration allows use of strong restorative materials requiring time-consuming fabrication methods requiring intense heat, such as casting metal or firing porcelain which would not be possible to complete inside the mouth. Because of the expansion properties, the relatively similar material costs, and the cosmetic benefit, many patients choose to have their crown fabricated with gold.
Preparation of a tooth for a crown involves permanently removing much of the tooth’s original structure, including portions that might still be healthy and structurally sound. All currently available materials for making crowns are not as good as healthy, natural tooth structure, so teeth should only be crowned when an oral health-care professional has evaluated the tooth and decided that the overall value of the crown will outweigh the disadvantage of needing to remove some healthy parts of the tooth. This can be a very complex evaluation to make, so different dentists (trained at different institutions, with different experiences, and trained in different methods of treatment planning and case selection) may come to different conclusions regarding treatment.
Traditionally more than one visit is required to complete crown and bridge work, and the additional time required for the procedure can be a disadvantage; the increased benefits of such a restoration, however, will generally offset these considerations.