South Central WI Archive
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2010
Written by 

What is a dental crown?

A dental crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” that is placed over a tooth to cover the tooth to restore its shape and size, strength and improve its appearance. The crowns, when cemented into place, cover the visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line. When done in a tooth colored material, they cannot be distinguished from natural teeth.

Why is a dental crown needed?

  • To protect a weak tooth (from decay, for instance) from breaking or to hold together parts of a cracked tooth
  • To restore an already broken tooth or a tooth that has been severely worn down
  • To cover and support a tooth with a large filling when there isn’t a lot of tooth left
  • To hold a dental bridge in place
  • To cover misshaped or severely discolored teeth
  • To cover a dental implant
  • To make a cosmetic modification
  • After a root canal procedure has been performed

What types of crowns are available?

Permanent crowns can be made from stainless steel (for children), all metal (such as gold), porcelain-fused-to-metal, or tooth colored ceramic.

Metal crowns are typically made of a high noble alloy of metals, primarily gold. Compared with other crown types, less tooth structure needs to be removed with metal crowns, and tooth wear to opposing teeth is kept to a minimum. Metal crowns withstand biting and chewing forces well and may have the most longevity in the mouth. Also, metal crowns rarely chip or break. The metallic, silver or gold color is the main drawback.

Next to all-ceramic crowns (discussed next), porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns look most like normal teeth. However, sometimes the metal underlying the crown’s porcelain can show through as a dark line, especially at the gum line and even more so if your gums recede.

All-ceramic or all-porcelain dental crowns provide better natural color match than any other crown type and may be more suitable for people with metal allergies. With recent improvements in materials, these crowns are very strong and durable. All-ceramic crowns are a good choice for most teeth in the mouth, especially if an individual does not have a habit of grinding or display excessive wear on his/her teeth.

What steps are involved in preparing a tooth for a crown?

Preparing a tooth for a crown typically requires two visits to the dentist. The first step involves examining and preparing the tooth, the second visit involves placement of the permanent crown.

With recent advances in dental technology, there is also a one-visit option known as a CEREC (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics). With this CAD/CAM technology, the tooth is prepared and the crown is created right in the office and placed within the same appointment; no return trip and no temporary crown is necessary.

How long do dental crowns last?

On average, dental crowns last between 5 and 15 years. The life span of a crown depends on the amount of “wear and tear” the crown is exposed to, how well you follow good oral hygiene practices and your personal mouth-related habits (grinding or clenching your teeth, chewing ice, biting fingernails and using your teeth to open packaging). The life span of a crown depends more on the daily activities performed at home than the activities performed every 6 months at the dental office.

Remember that simply because a tooth has a crown does not mean the tooth is protected from decay or gum disease. Therefore, continue to follow good oral hygiene practices, including brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing once a day — especially around the crown area where the gum meets the tooth. It is also very important to keep up with your regular dental visits and radiographs so if a problem is present, it is diagnosed early.

Amy Sergeant, D.D.S.

Amy Sergeant, D.D.S., is a partner at Excellence in Dentistry, which has locations in Madison and Cottage Grove. Dr. Sergeant attended the University of Iowa — College of Dentistry. After receiving her doctorate of dental surgery in 2001, she completed a general practice residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the VA Medical Center in Iowa City. Dr. Sergeant’s attention to detail shows in her exceptional cosmetic work and general family dentistry. For more information, call 608-318-4350 or visit

Subscribe Today
Community Partners Directory
Find a Complimentary Copy
Community Calendar