Many people have crowns on their teeth, but there are still many questions surrounding them and why you may need one. Crowns, sometimes called caps, totally cover a damaged tooth to repair it or help strengthen it. When you get a crown, it requires an initial appointment to prepare the tooth and make an impression. The impression is then sent to a lab where they fabricate the crown usually from ceramic or gold. The crown is then cemented to your tooth at a second follow up visit.
Often times crowns are used to replace old fillings. Amalgam, or silver, fillings tend to expand and contract over time with temperature changes in your mouth. This can cause the tooth structure surrounding the filling to crack. Once this happens a crown may be needed to reinforce the tooth and make it strong again. Composite, or white, fillings do not do this. However over time the bonding agent can fail, allowing saliva and bacteria to get underneath the filling. If this happens you can get a new cavity underneath the original filling. Since tooth structure has already been taken away from the original filling, there is often not enough tooth structure left to do another filling. If this is the case a crown can fix the problem.
Another reason people need to get crowns is if they have a broken or fractured tooth, either from a cavity or from trauma. If there is not enough tooth structure left after the fracture, a crown will restore the original shape and function to the tooth. Teeth with root canals also require crowns. When a root canal is performed, they take out the nerve and blood supply to the tooth. This leaves the tooth very brittle, similar to an eggshell. A crown will reinforce the integrity of the tooth so that it does not fracture down the road. One last reason that people could benefit from a crown is if their teeth are worn down. This often happens when people clench or grind their teeth.
Once you get a crown there are precautions you can take to ensure they last a long time. The most important thing is to continue to brush and floss daily so that plaque and bacteria are not sitting on your teeth. Another thing you can do is use a fluoride mouthwash such as Act or Listerine (the purple kind). Fluoride will get into all of the nooks and crannies of your teeth to help keep them strong. Another thing you can do is wear a night guard while you sleep if you know that you clench or grind your teeth. Doing these things will not only preserve your new crown, but also help your other teeth!