Dental crowns are restorations which protect damaged, cracked or broken teeth. A crown strengthens your existing, damaged tooth so as to preserve its functionality.
Crowns are also known as caps because they sit over your existing tooth, covering the outer surface.
What is a dental crown or cap?
A dental crown or cap is an artificial cover fitted over a damaged or broken tooth, and can be made from ceramic, stainless steel, metal alloys or resin. A cap will partially or fully cover the natural 'crown' of your tooth, i.e. the part of the tooth visible above the gum line. Dental veneers are partial crowns that cover only the front and biting edge of teeth.
Preparation for a crown depends on the purpose of the crown and the condition of the tooth to be covered, but usually a dentist will first x-ray the target tooth to assess its health. They will then file the tooth under local anaesthetic to make space for the crown or cap. Afterwards, an impression of your tooth will be made and a temporary crown is often fitted to protect your prepared tooth. On your next visit, your permanent crown will be cemented into place under local anaesthetic.
What are the benefits of a dental crown?
A dental crown or cap can be both functional and cosmetic. If you have a worn, decayed or cracked tooth, or a very large filling or root canal that has left little remaining tooth material, a dental crown can save your tooth from further damage while restoring it to its correct shape and size. Dental crowns and caps are also used to cover dental implants and hold dental bridges in position.
A cap can be used purely for cosmetic purposes too, to cover discoloured, crooked or misshapen teeth. It can sometimes also appear to change the position of a crooked tooth.
What are the risks of having a dental crown?
While you have your temporary crown you will have to avoid sticky, hard or crunchy foods, as these may damage or lift off your temporary crown. Permanent crowns are far stronger, but they may still become loose or fall off entirely, exposing your damaged tooth underneath to food and bacteria. Your dental cap can also become chipped. Occasionally, crown preparation can cause nerve inflammation which may make a root canal treatment necessary.
Some sensitivity to hot and cold is normal after having a dental crown or cap fitted, but if it persists or the sensitivity occurs when biting down, this may mean the crown is too large or wrongly positioned, so see your dentist straight away. Although it’s rare, some people may also have an allergic reaction to the material the crown is made from.
How long will a dental crown or cap last for?
The endurance of a dental crown or cap varies between five and twenty years, depending on the material used and how much wear, tear and care the tooth receives.
How much does a dental crown cost?
Under the NHS, crowns can cost up to £220 each. Private prices for dental crowns or caps are from £300 to £1000.