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James Willis, DDS
Just What Is a Dental Crown?
Burke Dental Center

Just What Is a Dental Crown?

If you ever hear your dentist recommend a crown, cap, PFM, FGC, or MCC, would you know what he was talking about? When your dentist finds a problem with one of your teeth, it's important for you to understand the diagnosis and recommended course of treatment.

Often, a dentist will be able to explain multiple potential treatment plans. A well-informed patient who understands the advantages and disadvantages of each potential treatment has a much higher appreciation for the recommendation and is therefore better able to decide on a treatment plan.

When the structural integrity of a tooth is compromised due to infection, decay, or trauma, it must be restored to proper form. If the amount of healthy tooth structure remaining is insufficient to retain a “filling”, your dentist may recommend a crown. Your back teeth are intended to absorb the force exerted during chewing and often require a crown after receiving root canal therapy.

A crown is a restoration that fits around a prepared tooth much like a cap fits on your head. The crown restores the tooth to full form, contour, and function. The procedure begins with your dentist removing all decay and compromised tooth structure. Your dentist must prepare the tooth with a design that ensures retention of the crown. In some cases, especially when a significant amount of natural tooth structure has been damaged, your dentist will need to place a buildup material that will provide proper shape and contour to the prepared tooth.

Once the tooth is prepared, your dentist will take an impression of the prepared tooth that will be used to build a model of your teeth. The model will be used to fabricate your crown in a dental laboratory.

The fabrication process may take several days or even weeks to complete. Thus, on the day your tooth is prepared for the crown, your dentist will place a temporary crown on the prepared tooth for the interim.

Crowns can be made of a variety of materials. As the name suggests, a full gold crown (FGC) is made of gold. You may prefer your crown to match the shade of your natural teeth. In that case, your dentist may suggest a crown made with ceramic. In order to provide added structural strength to a ceramic crown, it may be fabricated with a metal core. This type of crown is called a porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crown or a metal ceramic crown (MCC).

If you have questions about crowns or if you have reason to believe you may need a crown, call your dentist to discuss it further with him or her.

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