There is a good reason why crowns have been used by dentists for so many years – they are one of the most effective ways to restore and protect a tooth that has been badly damaged or compromised in some way. A crown (also referred to as a “cap”) entirely covers the affected tooth, right down to the gum line. It can, quite literally, save a tooth that might otherwise need to be extracted. In most circumstances, crowns are used on teeth that have been damaged badly by decay and can’t be repaired with a simple filling. But there are other uses for crowns as well – as artificial teeth for dental implants or dental bridges, for example. Crowns come in a variety of materials, and which one you select will depend to a large extent on what qualities matter most to you in your dental restoration. For patients in and around the Austin, Texas area, we have compiled this list of the types of crowns available.
Types of Dental Crowns
The type of crown you choose will depend on a variety of considerations, including the location of the affected tooth inside your mouth and, of course, the recommendation of your dentist. If you have a damaged tooth in the very front of your mouth – one that is visible when you smile – you will probably want a crown that is made from a material that can be created to match the shade of your other teeth. But if your tooth is a molar that is located in the back of your mouth and is not visible when you smile, you might choose a more durable metal crown. Your dentist can help you decide which one is the right choice for you based on your individual needs. What follows are the types of crowns available to most dental patients:
- Metal crowns – Crowns made from metal are generally considered to be the strongest and most durable. For that reason, they are often used on molars located at the back of the mouth. Molars are the teeth that do the majority of chewing, and they are rarely visible to other people – two reasons why metal crowns are often the ideal choice for these teeth. Although metal crowns may appear to be either gold or silver, the vast majority of these restorations are made from a combination of many different metals. Gold, silver, platinum, palladium, nickel, chromium and cobalt are all metals that are typically used in metal crowns.
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns – First developed in the 1960s, PFM crowns offer the patient two very clear advantages: 1) they are extremely durable, and 2) they can be made to match the shade of the patient’s existing natural teeth. These crowns are typically made using some form of metal alloy covered with dental porcelain. In many ways, PFM crowns are considered to be the best of both worlds, offering the strength of a metal crown with the appearance of a porcelain crown. For that reason, these restorations are often used in dental bridges and dental implants, in addition to restoring and protecting badly damaged teeth.
- All-porcelain or all-ceramic crowns – Crowns that are made entirely of either porcelain or ceramic are generally considered to be the most aesthetically pleasing restorations. Both ceramic and porcelain materials can be made to precisely match the color of the patient’s natural teeth and are virtually undetectable by other people. This makes them great choices for teeth that are in the front of a patient’s mouth and visible when the patient smiles. The downside to this type of crown is that it isn’t as strong and durable as those made from metal or PFM crowns, and they may either crack or wear out long before the other types of crowns. However, if your affected tooth is in the front of your mouth – and particularly if you have an allergy to metals – an all-ceramic or all-porcelain crown could be the perfect choice for you.
- Composite resin crowns – This type of crown is built by a dentist using a tooth-colored composite resin material. The nature of the material makes it quite easy for the experienced dentist to create a restoration that closely matches the appearance of the patient’s other natural teeth. Another advantage of composite resin crowns is that they are typically less expensive than those made from other materials, and they contain no metal, which is a benefit for patients with metal allergies. But that is where the advantages end. Composite resin crowns are not very durable and generally only last for a few years. People with this type of crown are also more likely to form gingival inflammation than patients with other kinds of crowns.
- Zirconia crowns – One type of crown that has become more common over the past few years is made from zirconium dioxide, a strong and durable form of metal related to titanium. Because this material is so strong, it means that the dentist doesn’t need to do as much preparation on the patient’s tooth. And because zirconia crowns are so strong, they are often an excellent choice for molars. Another advantage is their longevity – in a recent study, zirconia crowns held up just as well as metal-based crowns after a 5-year period. Unfortunately, the opaque appearance of zirconia results in a crown that may not be as natural looking as restorations made from other materials, but that is not as much of an issue if the material is used for teeth located at the back of the mouth. And some dentists and dental labs have begun layering porcelain on top of zirconia, producing a crown that is not only extremely durable but more natural looking as well.
Crowns are a great way to save damaged teeth or, when used in an implant or a dental bridge, to replace missing teeth. Fortunately, Austin, Texas dental patients can choose from several different types of dental crowns. To find out more information, and to choose the right material for your crown, schedule an appointment with your dentist today.