Repairing a Chipped or Broken Tooth
Dental Cap or Crown
If a large piece of tooth breaks off or the tooth has a lot of decay, the dentist may grind or file away part of the remaining tooth and cover it with a crown, or tooth-shaped cap, made to protect the tooth and improve its appearance. Permanent crowns can be made from metal, porcelain fused to metal, all resin, or all ceramic. Different types have different benefits. All-metal crowns are the strongest. Porcelain and resin crowns can be made to look nearly identical to the original tooth.
If the entire top of the tooth is broken off but the root is still intact, the dentist or an endodontist (a dentist who specializes in root canals) may perform root canal therapy and place a pin or a post in the canal, and then build up enough of a structure onto which a crown can be made. Later, the dentist can cement the crown over the pin or post-retained restoration.
Getting a crown usually takes two visits to the dentist’s office. During the first visit, your dentist may take X-rays to check the roots of the tooth and surrounding bone. If no further problems are detected, the dentist will numb the tooth and surrounding gum and then remove enough of the remaining tooth to make room for a crown. If a break or chip has left a large piece of the tooth missing, your dentist can use a filling material to build up the tooth to hold the crown. Next, your dentist will use a putty-like material to make an impression of the tooth receiving the crown as well as the opposing tooth (the one it will touch when you bite down). The impressions are sent to a lab where the crown is made. In the meantime, your dentist may place a temporary crown made of acrylic or thin metal.
During the second visit, typically two to three weeks later, your dentist will remove the temporary crown and check the fit of the permanent one before permanently cementing it in place.
Some dental offices, however, have special digital milling technology that enables them to make a crown the same day without taking a putty impression.