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Most people call them ‘dental caps’, but if you want to impress your dentist, use the term ‘dental crown’. As dentists, we refer to them as crowns, but cap works for me as well!
A crown is a dental restoration which covers the entire surface of the tooth: that is the part of the tooth that is above the gum line. It restores strength to a weakened tooth in addition to esthetics.
A filling, on the other hand, just patches or ‘fills’ in an area of a tooth that is missing whether it be due to decay or a fracture.
The average person can exert 150-200 lbs of muscular force on their back teeth. This is 9 times the force that can be exerted on their front teeth. So if a back tooth is compromised, i.e. has a root canal or a large filling and does not receive a dental crown, it is very likely that it will fracture. Unfortunately, teeth usually fracture in a way that they may not be able to be saved…that is, they fracture ‘vertically’ down into the root.
The average life span of a dental crown is approximately 10 years if you take good care of it through brushing and flossing. This actually goes for all of the dental work in your mouth, including fillings, etc.
Consider this analogy: If a car is covered with salt in the winter, it’ll rust. If your dental work is covered with plaque (which is made up of a multitude of bacteria and food particles), it won’t hold up either.
The 1st appointment involves shaping the tooth, taking impressions (or moulds) and covering up the prepared tooth with a temporary crown (see photo). A temporary crown is necessary because we want to ensure that the ‘prepared’ tooth is protected and covered in the interim that it takes for the lab to make the crown. It takes about 10-12 days for the lab to make the crown.
At the 2nd appointment, we cement the crown if certain criteria and standards have been met.
1. To strengthen a tooth: if it has had a root canal or if it has a large filling.
2. To restore or change the shape of a tooth.
a. if the tooth is broken or is fractured.
b. if a tooth is out of alignment.
c. if the tooth is not the right shape.
3. To improve esthetics:
a. if the front tooth is made up of a lot of filling material and it just doesn’t look right – maybe it has discolored or is stained.
b. if the enamel of a front tooth is stained i.e. perhaps by the effects of the antibiotic, Tetracycline, smoking, coffee or tea.
In the next entry, we’ll continue our discussion of dental crowns. Until then, hold onto this thought…
Dr. Robert Axelrad is a Brampton dentist who owns and manages his own dental practice in Brampton, Ontario. Affectionately known as ‘The Gentle Dentist‘, his patients include children, adults and seniors from Brampton and across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Dr. Axelrad recently moved his practice to its current, state-of-the-art dental office at Bestgate Professional Center in in 2002 to accommodate his growing list of happy patients.