A crown, also known as a cap, is a dental restoration that covers a damaged or heavily decayed tooth. A crown is also used for a dental implant or on teeth required for an abutment (anchor) for a bridge. Crowns are cemented over the top of an existing tooth to protect the tooth and/or to provide structural support.
What a crown does
A crown protects a heavily damaged tooth; it lowers the risk of fracture and breakage allowing a tooth to be saved versus extracted. It is always preferred to maintain natural teeth (all or in part) rather than removing them. The tooth, particularly below the gum line, supports the overall function and structural integrity of the mouth. Crowns are also required to support the placement of a bridge or over a dental implant.
Types of crowns
A crown is created to replicate the original tooth by taking an impression of the tooth along with adjacent teeth and the bite. A number of materials are available to create the crown; ceramic/porcelain, gold and porcelain fused to gold are commonly used. The materials chosen provide varying levels of structural support, longevity, and associated costs. Tooth-coloured options are often considered more aesthetically pleasing. Discuss your options with your dentist.
With proper care you can expect to receive many years of service from a crown. The lifespan depends on the strength of the material used (porcelain, porcelain fused to gold, gold, composite), the health and integrity of the natural tooth and the gums (gums can recede from the crown to expose the supporting tooth structure) and how you care for the tooth. Decay, a fracture in the crowned tooth and/or gum disease around the crown may require additional treatment and lead to replacing the existing crown.
Special care considerations
As with natural teeth, how you care for your dental health, including any dental work will also factor in to its lifespan. With appropriate daily care; eating a balanced diet, including avoiding any hard or sticky foods that can damage your crown; and regular examinations and professional cleanings, you can expect your crown to last for many years. Work with your dentist to discuss any special care requirements.