What the heck is a dental crown, and do I really need it?

You just visited your dental office for a cleaning and exam. Your teeth felt fine going in, but your dentist just told you that one of your teeth needs a crown. What now?

Crowns & Broken or Decayed Teeth

In most cases, a tooth needs a crown when the decayed or broken portion is salvageable, but too large for a filling to predictably last. The crown is normally made from tooth colored ceramic, covers the visible area of the entire tooth, or, covers only the problem area.

In addition to repairing large or deep areas of decay and missing portions of teeth, crowns are also used to control fractures, correct bite and alignment problems, and improve esthetics.

When Will I Need a Crown?

Dentists sometimes disagree about when a crown is needed. Because dental treatment can be very subjective, it’s normal for dentists to have different but valid opinions about how to fix the same problem.

For example, a fracture running through a molar might not have symptoms, yet. But many dentists know that a fracture could split later and cause you to lose your tooth. What we don’t know, because x-rays normally don’t show us, is how deep the fracture is.

Looking at other clues, we have to decide whether a less expensive filling would work, be a temporary fix, or just make things worse.

For example, if you chew ice, experience tells us a crown might be the best solution because of its added strength. These are judgment calls you and your dentist will decide upon together.

Dental Crown Options

There are different types of crowns you and your dentist can choose from, depending on your budget and the condition of your teeth.

  • Partial Crown: If only a portion of a tooth is to be covered, a “partial” crown made from tooth-colored ceramic or metal, such as gold, can be used.
  • Full Crown: If the entire tooth is to be covered by a “full” crown, the choices are broader, including different types of tooth-colored ceramic, ceramic covered metal, or 100% gold or silver metal.

As you discuss the options with your dentist, you may want to consider if your teeth need whitening or if you would like to correct other areas near your new crown.

Your dentist might point out, for example, that if an adjacent misshapen filling is not managed it will cause your new crown to also be misshapen. Your dentist can identify other potential improvements, explain your options, and help you reach the right decision.

Don’t Forget to Ask Your Dentist

Fortunately, when you need more than a cleaning, most dentists are trustworthy and only want what is best for you. They will take the time to make sure you are well informed and your questions have all been thoroughly answered, including anticipated costs, insurance, and required appointments.

It should be the kind of experience that makes you feel good about your visit and want to refer others. You might want to reconsider, however, if you feel rushed or pressured, or that a non dentist is making your treatment decisions.

Also make sure the dentist is the one adjusting and permanently placing your new crown, two functions dental assistants are not legally allowed to perform.

So, Do I really Need a Crown?

When your dentist says you need a crown, you probably do, even if the tooth doesn’t hurt. Ask your dentist to explain their findings and all your options, including fillings. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the procedures and finances, and that you haven’t been rushed or pressured.

If you have any additional questions or concerns head on over to review our section on crowns, and make sure you read our members’ Code of Ethics. These are great first steps in making sure you find a dentist you can trust, and receive the quality care you deserve.


Smile With Confidence, Thanks to Your Dentist!

I graduated from dental school in 1976. At that time, the job of a dentist was to correct and eliminate dental problems to help patients chew better and more comfortably. We didn’t worry much about appearance or a person’s smile because the materials and techniques we had, short of braces, weren’t advanced enough to make remarkable improvements.

A few years out of school I caught myself looking at teeth when people spoke, instead of other parts of the face.I began asking my patients if they did the same thing, and yes, we all were looking at teeth. That’s when I began to appreciate how big a role our teeth play in our appearance and how others see us. Many of my patients expressed the similar thoughts.

Fortunately, dentistry now has a vast array of methods to help patients have the best smile possible.

How Can a Dentist Help Improve My Smile?

Dentists today have a variety of tools and procedures they can utilize to help improve your smile.  The first part of the process is to define your goals and ultimately how you want your smile to look.

Your dentist can then help decide upon the right tools to accomplish these goals. The quickest and least expensive improvement could simply be whitening your teeth to make your smile brighter and more appealing.

Sometimes, the right fix is having the teeth reshaped or modified with beautiful porcelain coverings. Straightening your teeth and bite corrections are also possibilities. But in any case, improving our smiles can be very rewarding, even life changing.

Why Should I Consider Cosmetic Dental Care?

Regardless of the reason or occasion, there is plenty of research to support why we should care about making a good first impression. During a study conducted by Kelton Research, people were asked to judge smiling faces with different teeth problems.

Overwhelmingly, people with nice looking and whiter teeth were judged more positively by appearing happier, more socially attuned, and predictably more successful. A few of the findings from Kelton’s study, and from a separate study in England include:

About 30% said a person’s teeth were the first section of the face they noticed. Individuals with pleasantly aligned teeth were 45% more likely to be hired over those with equal skills and experience but less attractive teeth. People with nice teeth are believed to be healthier and more intelligent. About 75% believe people with nice smiles are more trustworthy. 94% between 18 and 50 years of age are likely to notice a person’s smile the first time they meet.71% thought that people with nice smiles make friends easier.

With all this good news, it is easy to see the positive influence having a great smile can have on our self-esteem, social life, work life, and in maintaining a positive attitude. In fact, it is one of the most important first steps in forging new, positive, and long lasting relationships of all kinds.

Talk to Your Dentist about How he can Help You!

Today’s dentists can help people in new ways not possible in the past. We now know the mouth is not only the gateway to health for our entire body, but also plays a key role in other aspects of our lives.

As you begin the quest of improving your smile, look to our website for guidance in how to find a dentist you can trust with the necessary knowledge and skills to provide the smile you are looking for. Then, look forward to having a beautiful and healthy smile that can boost confidence and open doors we never knew existed. That is a lot to smile about.