Baby teeth all fall out eventually, but that doesn’t mean taking care of them doesn’t matter. The baby teeth are the backbone for future permanent teeth. Taking care of them ensures proper placement, longevity, and health for permanent teeth. If there is severe damage to the baby tooth from large cavities or trauma, a dental crown to protect the baby tooth may be the best treatment until the permanent tooth claims its spot.
What is a Dental Crown?
A dental crown is a cap placed over a tooth to cover it completely in order to restore its size, shape, or strength. A crown will fully encase the entire tooth to hide and/or protect damaged teeth.
When is a Crown Needed?
There are several reasons why you may need a crown, even for baby teeth. A crown restores a tooth to full functioning so you can eat, smile, chew as you normally would. The most common reasons for a crown include the following:
- You have too big of a cavity to fill
- You have a tooth that is cracked or too worn down
- If you have to get a root canal, you have to get a dental crown to protect it
- A discolored or badly shaped tooth (this is for aesthetic purposes)
- Covering a dental implant
- Holding a dental bridge in place
The enamel of baby teeth is thinner and so cavities tend to spread more easily and can affect a larger area of the tooth. When this happens, crowns may be the only way to protect the tooth and create a placeholder to protect and allow healthy permanent teeth to grow in properly.
Types of Tooth Crowns
When it comes to dental crowns, there are several different types your dentist could choose. Which one works best depends on tooth position/function, your preference, position of gum tissue, how much of your tooth that shows when you smile, and color of your tooth.
- Porcelain Crowns: This is definitely the most popular type of crown used today. They are all porcelain material which provides a very natural look. They match your teeth perfectly so no one would even recognize it as a cap. They are non-toxic and metal-free, which is beneficial to many who worry about metal toxicity. There are many different types of porcelain materials used today, such as E-Max and Zirconia. Your dentist can help you decide which material would be the best for your particular tooth.
- Porcelain Fused-to-Metal Crowns: This is a widely used dental crown. It’s been around for over 50 years, so we know they work well. A PFM provides the best of both worlds with the strength of a metal structure and the aesthetics of porcelain. The only downside to a PFM is the grey line that may show through at the gumline as sometimes they can wear down if a patient tends to grind or clench their teeth a lot.
- Gold Crowns: These are fairly rare today. They aren’t used very often because of the way they look – most people aren’t looking for gold teeth. However, they are strong and highly durable.
- Stainless Steel Crowns: This is most commonly used for children and molars because it’s the most durable. For teeth that do a lot of chewing, stainless steel can’t be beat. These are also very cost effective – and since they will come out eventually, they are a good choice for baby teeth.
The decision on what type of crown to use will ultimately depend on the dentist and his or her recommendation. It’s important to discuss the options to determine what is best suited for your child.
Steps to Getting a Dental Crown
The dental crown procedure doesn’t need to be painful or scary. In fact, it is a very common procedure, even for children. Usually, placing a dental crown requires two appointments of about 60 minutes each (unless you’re placing a stainless steel crown which is trimmed, crimped, and placed the same day). The process for a dental crown is outlined below:
- The dentist numbs your tooth with local anesthesia (typically lidocaine). If necessary, this can also be completed with sedation dentistry.
- The tooth is then shaved down to make room for the crown to fit perfectly on top.
- An impression is then made of the prepared tooth with a putty-like substance or a digital scanner so that the dentist can determine what size crown will fit best.
- The dentist will then determine the shade of the patient’s teeth using a shade guide or take pictures to shade match perfectly.
- A temporary crown made from resin or acrylic is then placed on the tooth while the permanent crown specifications are sent to a lab for manufacturing.
- After a few weeks, the permanent crown is sent to the dentist’s office and you’ll come back for another appointment to remove the temporary one and place the permanent one.
FAQs About Crowns