A dentist will usually recommend a crown if you have a tooth that's weak and at risk of fracturing during normal use. For example, if you have a root canal done, your tooth will be essentially hollowed out, making it far weaker. Or, if you have a cavity that's so large that the filling would make up the majority of the tooth, you might need a crown to strengthen it. If your dentist recommends a crown, you have a couple of options when it comes to what kind of crown you'll receive. Take a look at what you need to know about three types of crowns and their pros and cons.
Metal crowns can be made of base metals or of gold alloys. Both types of metal crowns have some similar advantages, like an accurate fit and great strength. The metals used in either type of metal crown are very malleable, which is what allows them to be shaped into a very accurately fitting crown. The more accurate the fit, the less discomfort you'll feel and the less likely the crown is to become damaged. And both metal options are made of strong materials that won't easily be damaged when eating.
The disadvantage of metal crowns is that they're very visible. If your dentist uses a metal crown on a tooth that's visible when you smile, the crown will be obvious to anyone who is looking. While some people like the aesthetic of the metal crowns, particularly the gold alloys, as a fashion choice, most people would rather crowns on their front teeth match the rest of their teeth. As a result, metal crowns are usually used on the back teeth, where their strength makes them ideal for chewing.
Ceramic crowns are made out of a glossy, porcelain-based material. Depending on your dentist, your ceramic crown may be either handcrafted by a dental technician or made by a computerized machine. Their biggest advantage is that they can be made to match the patient's natural teeth much more easily than any other type of crown. A well-made ceramic crown can be indistinguishable from a patient's front teeth. For this reason, they're usually used on the front teeth.
The main disadvantage of ceramic crowns is that they're not as strong as crowns that incorporate metal. However, since they're usually placed in the front, rather than on back teeth where you do the majority of your chewing, they may be at less risk of damage than metal crowns placed on your back teeth. Another thing to keep in mind is that the color of a crown may be different than your natural teeth. For example, if you're a smoker, and your teeth have nicotine stains, the crown might be whiter than your natural teeth. And if you routinely have your teeth whitened, you should know that whitening treatments don't work on ceramics, so unless you have the crown replaced, your teeth may be noticeably brighter than the crown.
Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns (PFMs) attempt to combine the aesthetics of ceramic crowns with the strength and durability of metal crowns. The dentist creates a metal shell that forms the part of the crown that goes over your tooth, and then porcelain is layered over the metal shell, giving the crown a pearly, tooth-like appearance. The advantage of these is that they can be used on either front or back teeth because they're both strong and aesthetically pleasing. They may also be more affordable than other crown options – PFMs start at around $500, compared to all-metal crowns that start at $600 and all-porcelain crowns that start at $800.
The disadvantage of PFMs is that they can break or chip, unlike metal crowns, and when the porcelain chips, it exposes the metal underneath. The metal may also be visible at the edge of the crown. That isn't usually a problem, but if your gums are receding, or if they begin to recede later on, the metal might be visible if the PFM is on a front tooth. Also, while PFMs blend in with natural teeth well, they may not look as lifelike as ceramic crowns, because the metal underneath the porcelain prevents the tooth from having the same semi-translucent appearance as a ceramic crown or natural tooth.
Which crown is right for you depends on many factors, including where the tooth will be placed in your mouth and what you can afford, as well as what your dental insurance covers. Be sure to discuss all of your options with a dentist at an office like Pittsburgh Dental Spa so that you can make the right choice for your mouth.