A dental crown is a restorative option for a tooth that has significant decay or damage. In many cases it can save the natural tooth, allowing the root to remain in place for support. Crowns are one of the most common restorative dental procedures because they are effective for most patients in most cases.
But there are some situations when a crown may not work, such as if there is not enough tooth structure left to attach it securely. How much tooth structure is needed for a crown? Here’s what you need to know before getting a dental crown.
What is a Dental Crown?
A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap that is placed over an existing tooth that is decayed or damaged. Crowns can be made of porcelain or metal, depending on the location of the tooth and the patient’s preferences. Porcelain closely resembles tooth enamel for a natural look. Metal is stronger but will stand out from your other teeth in appearance.
When a crown is placed the remaining enamel must first be reduced to make room for the crown. Then impressions (digital images) are taken to create a crown that is the proper size and shape. The crown is tried on to find out if it fits or if adjustments need to be made. When the crown fits properly it will be bonded into place over the remaining tooth for a permanent restoration.
How Much Remaining Tooth Enamel is Needed for a Crown?
One important factor in a successful dental crown is how much tooth structure is left after decay or damage has occurred. On average, at least a fourth (about 2 millimeters) of natural tooth material needs to remain for a dental crown to be attached. This means that a crown is a possibility for many patients.
What if There is Not Enough Tooth Structure Available?
In cases where there is not enough tooth structure left after decay or damage to attach a crown, there is still another potential option. Crown lengthening is a procedure that removes gum tissue in order to expose more tooth material. If there is not enough tooth structure above the gum line, the gum tissue can be gently removed until there is enough room to place a crown.
Why Do I Need a Crown?
Tooth decay can eat away at the enamel that makes up the natural crown of your tooth, creating pits or holes called cavities. Cavities that are discovered when they are small can be treated with fillings. But deep or widespread cavities over a tooth’s surface can be too extensive for a filling. A crown placed over the remaining enamel can protect the tooth from infection and further damage.
A dental injury resulting in a cracked or chipped tooth can also be treated with a crown. A crack in a tooth or a large chip or broken fragment can expose the tooth to infection through the soft layers of tooth material beneath the enamel. If bacteria invades the root canal it can infect the dental pulp, resulting in a tooth infection that will need root canal therapy.
Alternative Treatments When a Crown Isn’t an Option
In cases where there isn’t enough tooth material available for a crown, even with crown lengthening, the tooth may need to be extracted and replaced. There are two replacement options:
- Dental bridge. A dental bridge is a prosthetic consisting of two dental crowns with an artificial tooth in between them. The crowns fit over the healthy teeth on either side of the gap to support the replacement.
- Dental implant. A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is surgically placed in the bone of your jaw. It fuses with the bone to provide a solid support for an artificial tooth. Dental implants provide the most natural appearance and function possible in a prosthetic.
Need a Dental Crown?
Dental Wellness Team provides crown restorations for teeth that are significantly decayed or damaged. We will assess the condition of your tooth and determine whether or not a crown is possible for you. We offer CEREC Same Day Crowns for your convenience, allowing you to get your permanent crown placed in as little as one appointment.