Question: What are crowns (caps)?
Answer: Crowns (also referred to as caps) are dental restorations that surround the prepared tooth structure to help strengthen weakened teeth that have been cracked, broken or decayed. Dentists also use crowns to help restore a tooth’s shape and improve chewing function, speech and esthetics. These crowns are made from various types of materials which get bonded or cemented into place. Crowns can be made out of porcelain (or some form of dental ceramic), metal (a gold or other high noble metal alloy), or a combination of both. Since these crowns cover the entire visible potion of the tooth, from the gum level up, they in essence become your tooth’s visible surface.
Question: How are crowns made?
Answer: A crown is made in a dental laboratory from the impression your dentist took of your prepared tooth. Your dentist prepares your tooth by first removing any old, failing restorations, and any weak or decayed areas of tooth structure. Then the core of the tooth is built up with resin type materials that simulate the tooth structure it is replacing. Enough tooth structure is removed all around to allow for the proper thickness of metal and/or porcelain which gets fabricated by the dental lab. On average it takes about 2 weeks for this restoration to be ready for insertion.
Question: When would someone choose an all Porcelain crown over a traditional Porcelain and metal crown, and vice versa?
Answer: Porcelain or all ceramic crowns are chosen when esthetics is of paramount importance. These materials can have different shades of porcelain layered together to create a very polychromatic, natural looking tooth with natural translucencies and characteristics that blend better with the teeth surrounding them. Once metal is involved, the dental lab technician would have to place a white opaque material over the metal to try and block out the dark characteristics. As a result of the metal and opaque, the light doesn’t get reflected and absorbed as naturally as with a porcelain crown, resulting in a more monochromatic, less natural looking tooth. You can still have good esthetics with porcelain-fused- to- metal crowns, but it may require more tooth preparation to allow for more room for the layering of the porcelain to mask what is underneath. When the patient is a grinder, or requires more strength and stability, it may be recommended to choose a crown that is reinforced with metal, although there are new materials now that are very strong that do not contain any metals (such as Zirconia and Procera crowns).