Dental Crowns and Their Care

Happy patient dental crowns

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Dental crowns are a very popular treatment choice.  They can be done for single teeth or the whole mouth.  Dental crowns are placed over teeth to protect or reinforce them.  They are like a whole new layer of strong enamel.  Dental crowns have historically been made of varying materials, such as gold and feldspathic porcelain.  Over the last twenty years we have seen a huge switch in what most crowns are made of.

Gold Crowns

Gold crowns have been utilized for over a hundred years.  They are very durable and they are gentle to the opposing teeth they chew with.  The one downside to a gold crown is it yellow in color.  Most people consider this an unaesthetic restoration in today’s world.  What’s interesting about gold crowns is that you would think they are made of 100% gold.  Gold is very expensive and very soft in its pure form, so we actually have to mix it with other metals to make it stronger and slightly more affordable.    Overall, very few gold crowns are done today.

Feldspathic porcelain crowns

Feldspathic porcelain crowns have also been done for about a hundred years.  They look decent, but they are very abrasive to the opposing teeth they chew with, which over time can cause those teeth to become severely worn down.  Feldspathic porcelain crowns also have a base layer to them that is made out of a grey, dark metal coping that can sometimes be seen. This can cause them to be unaesthetic.

We are seeing a huge transition away from gold and feldspathic porcelain crowns for a new generation of crowns that is made of super strong and aesthetic ceramics. These porcelain crowns now are made with zirconia or lithium disilicate ceramics. These new ceramics are very strong for dental crowns, very beautiful, and are gentle to the opposing teeth they chew with.

The Process/Procedure

The process of getting crowns is pretty simple.  Getting just one crown done takes about 30 minutes or so, but when we do an entire new smile of crowns it can take three to six hours. If you want your smile to be fully enhanced we need crown ten to fourteen upper teeth.  If you show your lower teeth when talking and smile we will have to crown those as well.  We have to cover any unsightly teeth that can be seen.  Once you are either comfortably numb or sedated, the dentist will use different diamond drill bits to reshape the tooth.  During this reshaping the dentist will remove any cavities, cracks, or old fillings.  Once the tooth is looking perfect for the new dental crown, the dentist will take an impression of the area either with a silicone material or a very cool digital scanning device.

The dentist generally makes you a temporary crown that day which you will wear for one to two weeks.  The temporary crowns can look very nice and sometimes look just like the final crowns, especially when we are doing your entire mouth.  Temporary crowns are made out of acrylic so you have to be gentle with them—they are not strong.  The lab or milling center will then create the permanent porcelain crown, which is bonded on to the tooth with a very strong cement.  The cement takes about 24 hours to fully cure, so take it easy the first day with your permanent crown.  Your gums may be a little sore for a day or two after you get permanent crown but gums will feel better very quickly.

Getting a crown is pretty easy, but why do people need them? A patient’s need for crowns can include a variety of reasons.  It could be that a tooth broke or there are old fillings with cavities on the tooth or weakened enamel.  Teeth break and crack generally due to overuse, grinding, clenching, and old fillings that weaken the outer edge of enamel around them.  Deeply stained teeth can be crowned too.  These are teeth that have dark grey or yellow staining that just will not come out with bleaching. This could be from teeth being exposed to the antibiotic tetracycline, tobacco, or excess red wine or coffee.  Crowns can cover the old enamel to help it look beautiful and white again.    Crooked teeth and teeth with gaps can also be crowned to make them look straight again. Crowns can also help patients avoid having adult orthodontics and braces.  What may take an orthodontist two years to fix with braces can often be fixed in one day with new dental crowns.  Patients are have so much relief when we tell them you don’t have to wear braces for two years before we fix your teeth.  Life is busy today and waiting for braces to work can be frustrating.

Once you have your crown it is like having a whole new layer of enamel on your tooth.  It is strong and beautiful.  While our materials today are very strong, you still have to take good care of your new crown. Brushing and flossing are very important. While the crown is strong there is always a chance that you could get a cavity underneath a crown.  Daily brushing and flossing help to prevent cavities under crowns.

Dental Crown Care

Eating really hard and sticky foods is not a good idea with crowns. Heck, it isn’t wise to eat really hard and sticky foods with natural teeth. I have seen so many broken teeth from these foods. With your new crowns be sure to stay away from caramels, really hard breads, beef jerky, and those really tough protein bars. I always have to remind patients that they should not chew ice as well.

With the right home care and avoiding certain foods, your crowns can last a very long time.  They have the potential to last the rest of your life if they are maintained well.  What is also so great about your new porcelain crowns is that the porcelain will never fade in color or stain yellow or brown.  If you have all of your teeth done with crowns then they will always match in color and beauty.  While natural teeth stain and yellow over time, the crowns will not. This is the best way to keep your smile looking youthful and beautiful.

It is amazing to see how crowns can radically reshape and recolor teeth.  A lifetime of crooked, broken, or stained teeth can be taken care of in just one day.  We can do all of your crowns in just a day and your new smile will be ready to be shown off. No more hiding your smile or avoiding social situations.  You will smile and eat with confidence again once you have your new crowns by our Portland dentist Heath Lampee.  The before and after photos are  a real testimonial to the power of a new smile with dental crowns. Not only do crowns make the teeth healthy again and cavity free, but ultimately they change lives.  We hope this has been helpful to understand how crowns work and how they can change the shape and color of the teeth for a healthier smile and smile transformation.  Helping people smile again is what we do.

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