A dental crown is a cap that covers a damaged tooth. The crown makes the tooth stronger and improves how teeth look.
Reasons for Procedure
A dental crown may be needed if your tooth is broken, cracked, decayed, worn down, or severely discolored. Crowns are also used to:
- Support teeth after a filling, dental implant, or dental bridge has been placed
- Protect the tooth after a root canal
- Treat chewing problems
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Problems with placing a dental crown are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your dentist will review potential problems, like:
- Allergic reaction to the materials in the crown or the local anesthesia
- The need for additional procedures if the crown becomes chipped or loose
- Damage to the tooth's nerve, which may require a root canal
- Decay of the crowned tooth if bacteria gets into the tooth
- Sensitive teeth, especially when consuming something hot or cold
- Dark line on the gum where the crown is placed if a metal crown is used
Talk to your dentist about these risks before the procedure.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
It typically takes 2 visits to have a crown placed. Before these appointments, you and your dentist will decide which type of crown is best for you. Different materials are used to create crowns:
You will also have dental exams. The dentist will evaluate the health of your tooth's roots.
It is also important that you talk to your dentist if you take any medications, herbs, or supplements. You may need to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
In addition, tell your dentist if you have any heart conditions or joint replacements. You may need to take antibiotics to prevent infection.
Local anesthesia will be used.
Description of the Procedure
The First Visit
The area surrounding the tooth will be numbed, usually by injecting a local anesthetic into the gum. Next, the tooth will be prepared for the crown. The surfaces will need to be filed down. If you are missing part of the tooth, material may need to be added to the tooth so that the crown can be placed. This filling material is called a crown buildup.
Physical impressions will be made of your tooth and the surrounding teeth. This is to make sure that the permanent crown will be an exact fit without impacting your bite. The impressions will be sent to a dental lab where the permanent crown will be made. If you are planning to have a porcelain crown, the dentist will help you select a shade that looks like your natural tooth color. The dentist will put in a temporary crown until the permanent one is ready. The permanent crown should be ready in 2-3 weeks.
A newer technique uses digital technology to take impressions. This allows a permanent crown to be made in the office in 1-2 hours. This technology may not be available everywhere.
The Second Visit
If had a temporary crown placed, you will need to return for a second visit. The dentist will numb the area again. The temporary crown will be removed. Cement will be used to secure the new permanent crown in place.
How Long Will It Take?
You will need to have about 2 visits over the course of several weeks. Each visit may last about 30-60 minutes.
Will It Hurt?
You may have some pain when the local anesthetic is injected. After the procedure, you may have discomfort or sensitivity around your tooth for a short time.
At the Care Center
You will be able to go home after the procedure.
When you return home:
During the time that you have the temporary crown, take special care of it:
- Do not eat anything that may remove the crown such as chewy or hard foods.
- Chew on the side of your mouth that does not have the crown.
- Carefully floss your teeth so that you do not pull out the crown.
- If recommended by your dentist, use toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
- Take good care of your teeth. Brush twice a day and floss daily. Floss well around your new crown. Also, get regular cleanings and oral exams done.
- Avoid habits that can damage your teeth, like grinding your teeth or chewing ice.
- Be sure to follow your dentist's instructions.
With the proper care, a crown can last for 5-15 years.
Call Your Dentist
Call your dentist if any of the following occur.
- The temporary or permanent crown becomes damaged or falls out.
- Persistent pain or sensitivity, or pain when biting or chewing.
- You have an allergic reaction to the material in the crown.
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
Mouth Heatlhy—American Dental Association
Canadian Academy for Esthetic Dentistry
Canadian Dental Association
Brushing your teeth. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth. Accessed March 5, 2018.
Dental crowns. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/10923-dental-crowns. Updated April 14, 2015. Accessed March 5, 2018.
Dental crowns. Dental Find website. Available at: https://www.dentalfind.com/articles/dental-crowns. Accessed March 5, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Monica Zangwill, MD, MPH