How can we help you?
One of our core values is respect for our patients. We think you deserve to have all the answers when it comes to your dental care, and we are happy to provide those to you. No question is too small or too silly. If it's important to you, it's important to us!
We've collected some of the questions we hear most often and posted answers for you. Take a look and see if your question has been addressed here. If not – or if you'd like more information – go ahead and give us a call! We're happy to hear from you and help you out.
Ceramic Tooth-Colored Crowns
Most likely no one will ever notice that you have a crown or bridge. Dr. Gray makes a very deliberate effort to ensure that your dental work matches your natural teeth. We take multiple photographs of your teeth before we start dental work. These photos are sent to our dental lab technician. The lab technician uses them to carefully match the shade of your crown to your existing teeth. We will also give you the opportunity to participate in, and approve the final shade selection. Dr. Gray works with a lab with 1 technician, located in Lakewood, CO. This allows us to communicate very effectively and achieve consistent results for shade and overall quality. Using non-local discount conglomerate labs with dozens of technicians does not produce the same consistently excellent result. Please take a look at our smile gallery to see some examples of our work.
Most patients find that they do not experience any pain during the crown treatment process. From the patient’s perspective, shaping a tooth for a crown is very similar to having a filling placed. Dr. Gray uses a deliberate and specific protocol including multiple types of anesthetic to numb the tooth. This protocol is extremely effective and allows us to numb the tooth with minimal discomfort. After shaping the tooth for the crown, we place a plastic temporary crown to protect the tooth while the permanent crown is made. Occasionally people will notice minor sensitivity to cold while they have the plastic temporary crown. Once the permanent crown is cemented onto the tooth, it will feel like a natural tooth again.
Sometimes teeth break in a way that allows us to repair them, and sometimes they break in a way that is impossible for us to repair. If you experience a catastrophic fracture, the tooth has to be extracted. In some cases, a fracture can expose the pulp chamber of the tooth, which means the tooth will need root canal treatment in addition to the crown.
What Happens When a Tooth Breaks
Even if the tooth breaks in a way that Dr. Gray can repair, you never know when a tooth will break or how much it will hurt when it does. You may be on vacation, or enjoying a weekend in the mountains, or it may happen on your birthday! Even in the best of circumstances, when a tooth breaks you have to modify your plans and make time to get to the dentist to have it examined and (we hope) repaired. If you have the crown placed before the tooth breaks, YOU decide when your appointments will be and maintain control over the situation, instead of dealing with an emergency.
A crown is typically the most-conservative and least-expensive treatment for a tooth with high risk of fracture.
Regarding crowns that you already have, there is no way to effectively change the shade or translucency to make them look more like natural teeth. The good news is that there have been tremendous advances in the quality and versatility of crown materials in the last 20 years. Using digital photography and modern materials, old crowns that are discolored and conspicuous can be replaced with crowns that blend beautifully with your natural teeth and have life-like shade and translucency.
Usually one of the reasons for placing a crown on a tooth is to prevent the need for root canal treatment. Root canal treatment is required if the inside chamber (the pulp chamber, which contains the tooth’s nerve and blood supply) of the tooth becomes infected or irreversibly inflamed. There are a number of ways this can happen. Common causes include fractures that expose the pulp chamber to bacteria in the mouth, cavities that extend into the pulp chamber, and trauma to the tooth.
Dental Crown Process
Placing a crown includes removing all decay and old filling material from the tooth and covering the tooth to prevent fractures. In rare cases, modifying and shaping the tooth for crown placement can cause inflammation of the tooth which does not go away. In these cases, root canal treatment is needed.
If you are concerned about a broken crown, you should definitely make an appointment to have it examined. Do not wait until your tooth or gums hurt! Typically, by the time teeth start to hurt, there is extensive damage present. Dr. Gray will look at the condition of your crown, look for any new decay around the edges of the crown, evaluate an x-ray of the tooth with the crown, and discuss his findings and options for treatment with you.
How a Broken Tooth Can Affect Your Dental Health
Sometimes a broken crown is a purely cosmetic problem and the tooth underneath is still healthy. Other times there may be new decay present where the crown meets the tooth, or the fracture may allow food to become trapped between the teeth. This condition puts both the crowned tooth and the tooth next to it at high risk for new decay. The sooner a broken crown is examined, the better.
Today, most crowns are made with one of two types of porcelain.
Both types of porcelain can be colored to match the shade of your natural teeth. One type is extremely hard, and looks a little less life-like. The other is not as hard, but has more translucency and shading, which make it look more like a natural tooth. Crowns used to be made from gold or from a gold substructure covered with tooth-colored porcelain. In certain situations, these materials are preferable to a full porcelain crown. Dr. Gray will discuss the risks and benefits of each crown material with you based on the tooth that needs treatment and your specific situation.
From a dental standpoint, these two terms mean the same thing. It is a covering for a tooth that improves the tooth’s appearance, and holds the tooth together to prevent fractures.
There are a variety of reasons a tooth can benefit from being covered by a crown. Some of the most common reasons include cracks or fractures, severe/extensive decay, loss of tooth structure due to the placement of large fillings, root canal treatment, and esthetic or tooth position problems.
Benefits of a Dental Crown
Any tooth that is fractured or has cracks present will benefit from the placement of a crown. If the tooth is already broken, the crown will replace missing tooth structure and prevent more fractures in the future. If the tooth is cracked, but no pieces have broken off yet, the crown will hold the tooth together and prevent it from breaking. When a tooth fractures, it may break in a way that we can fix, but it may break in a way that cannot be repaired and the tooth must be extracted. Teeth can also break at inconvenient times. Placing a crown before the tooth fractures allows you to plan for the procedure and schedule it at a time that is convenient for you instead of having to stop everything to deal with a broken tooth.