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Crowns

A crown (often called a cap) fits over and replaces the entire part of a decayed tooth above the gum line. It encases the tooth and becomes the tooth's new outer surface.

You will typically need two or more visits to your dentist to repair a severely decayed tooth with a crown.

Crowns may be made of porcelain or a metal base covered with a thin layer of ceramic that matches your teeth and looks like a normal, healthy tooth. Crowns for the teeth in the back of the mouth may be made of gold.

During your first visit, your dentist will take out the decay and make an impression of your teeth to create a mold used for making the crown. Your dentist will:

  • Numb your teeth, gums, tongue, and surrounding skin. Your dentist will first put a substance that feels like jelly directly on the area to start the numbing process, and then inject an anesthetic to complete it. Many dentists will give you nitrous oxide gas (laughing gas) to reduce your pain and help you relax.
  • Sometimes use a small sheet of rubber on a metal frame (rubber dam) to target the decayed tooth and stop liquid and tooth chips from entering the mouth and throat.
  • Drill out all the decay.
  • Take an impression of the decayed tooth. The mold will allow a technician to make a crown that perfectly matches the drilled tooth.
  • Cover the tooth with a temporary crown until your permanent crown is ready.

See pictures of a tooth camera.gif and tooth decay.

During your second visit, your dentist will:

  • Numb your teeth and gums as before.
  • Remove the temporary crown.
  • Cement the permanent crown to the damaged tooth.
  • Have you bite on a piece of carbon paper. This shows how well the crown is positioned. If necessary, your dentist will reshape and polish the crown.

What To Expect After Treatment

Your lips and gums may remain numb for a few hours until the anesthetic wears off. To avoid injuring your mouth, be careful not to chew on your numb lip or cheek.

Why It Is Done

A crown is used to:

  • Treat teeth that have broken or decayed so much that your dentist cannot fix them with a filling.
  • Cover a tooth that is so severely damaged that most of the top part had to be removed.
  • Repair a defective filling.
  • Improve how a tooth looks.

Dentists sometimes use crowns after root canal treatment to seal the tooth and prevent it from breaking.

How Well It Works

A crown will work just like a healthy tooth.

Crowns sometimes come loose over time, and you may need to get them cemented again or replaced.

Risks

If tooth decay is right next to the pulp, the pulp may not be strong enough to make healthy dentin, which surrounds and protects the pulp. If this happens, your dentist or endodontist may have to remove the pulp, or an oral surgeon may have to remove the tooth root.

If you have certain heart problems, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics before a dental procedure. Some procedures can cause bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the body. The antibiotics lower your risk of getting an infection in your heart called endocarditis. For more information, see People Who Need Antibiotics to Prevent Endocarditis and Procedures That May Require Antibiotics to Prevent Endocarditis.

What To Think About

If the decay is near the pulp and your dentist thinks the pulp might die, he or she might suggest taking out the tooth (extraction) and using a bridge or implant. If the pulp dies after you get a crown, you will need a root canal to remove the dead pulp.

Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerSteven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry
Last RevisedJune 14, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 14, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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