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Dental Crowns or “Caps”

The terms dental crowns and caps are synonymous. Crowns are typically used to restore a tooth's function and appearance following a restorative procedure such as a root canal. When decay in a tooth has become so advanced that large portions of the tooth must be removed, crowns are often used to restore the tooth. Crowns are also used to attach bridges, cover implants, or to prevent a cracked tooth from becoming worse. Crowns also serve an aesthetic use, and are applied when a discolored or stained tooth needs to be restored to its natural appearance. Crowns are fabricated in a laboratory and are made either of porcelain baked onto a metal substrate, all-porcelain, or many of the new ceramic materials that have been developed.

If a tooth has been significantly damaged by decay or injury or if it is too misshapen, undersized, or darkly stained to be restored with fillings, dental bonding or veneers, a full coverage restoration is typically required. Known as a dental crown or “cap,” a full coverage restoration is custom designed and fabricated by the dentist to fit over the damaged tooth to recreate a healthy and natural appearance and to reestablish the function of the tooth. Beyond restoring the form and function of the tooth, a dental crown serves to strengthen and preserve the underlying tooth so that with proper care it can be maintained for many years.

Dental crowns are typically recommended as the restoration of choice when a tooth has undergone a root canal procedure. They are also used to cover the abutment teeth next to an edentulous space to provide support for a fixed bridge and are used for the restoration of dental implants to serve as a permanent replacement for a lost or missing tooth.

Crowns can be fabricated from a variety of materials including porcelain or dental ceramics, porcelain fused to metal, composite resin and metal alloys. Which type of crown is fabricated depends upon the aesthetic and functional requirements of the case, patient preferences, and budget.

How are dental crowns fabricated?

Tooth preparation and crown fabrication is a multistep process:

  1. The dentist prepares the tooth by removing the outer layers of the tooth as well as any damaged tooth structure. If there is not enough tooth structure remaining, the core of the tooth can be built up with restorative materials as needed to provide sufficient retention for a crown.
  2. A detailed impression is taken and a model of the prepared tooth is constructed.
  3. A custom crown is fabricated based upon the exact specifications of the model.
  4. If the crown is not to be placed the same day, a temporary crown is placed to cover and protect the prepared tooth as well as maintain its appearance.
  5. The final crown is checked for fit and appearance. Once any final adjustments are made, the crown is cemented or bonded into place.

With proper care and maintenance, a dental crown can last for many years.