Dental Crowns: What Are They, Types, & Cost

Dental crowns are caps placed on top of teeth. This guide from Flossy explains what they look like, what they're used for, and how much they cost.

June 8, 2022
Dental Crowns: What Are They, Types, & Cost

Tooth damage can occur due to various reasons, such as tooth decay or physical trauma. 

While dental fillings are sometimes enough to fix this damage, other cases might require a different approach. 

Dental crowns are caps made from a tooth-like material. They're placed on top of damaged teeth to restore their shape, function, and appearance. 

If your dentist recommends getting dental crowns, you may wonder what their different types are and how much they cost. This guide from Flossy answers all your questions about dental crowns, so you know what to expect exactly from your next dental procedure. 

What Are Dental Crowns? 

Dental crowns are "caps" placed on top of the teeth.

They come in various shapes, sizes, and materials. Your dentist will create dental crowns based on how your teeth look. This way, a dental crown will be visually indistinguishable from your real teeth.

Your natural (damaged) tooth will have to be reshaped to fit a dental crown. Using a drill, your dentist will file down the tooth until it fits the shape of the crown. After this, a dental crown will get cemented on top of the tooth, making it stay securely in place for years. 

Do I Need a Dental Crown?

You might need a dental crown for any of the following reasons:

  • Restoring a cracked, chipped, or broken tooth
  • Protecting a weak tooth from decay
  • Covering crooked or discolored teeth
  • Covering a dental implant 
  • Covering a tooth following a root canal procedure.

Your dentist will be able to tell you if you need a dental crown after a thorough examination. In general, a dental crown can be applied to the teeth to improve their strength, function, or appearance.

If your teeth are not damaged, and you just want to improve their appearance, then a crown is not a good idea. 

Because it requires your natural tooth to be filed down (to fit the crown), you may be doing more damage than necessary. Veneers make a great alternative to crowns if you simply want your teeth to look better. 

What Are Dental Crowns Made From?

When it comes to dental crown materials, there are several options. These include:

  • Metal alloys: Nickel and chromium are all metals used to make dental crowns. Dentists even provide gold crowns. They rarely chip and last the longest compared to any other dental crown material. However, because they're metallic, they're not used in the front of the jaw and are mainly reserved for out-of-sight back teeth.
  • Porcelain fused to metal: This material uses metal underneath the porcelain. It's similar in strength to 100% metal crowns. However, because porcelain covers the metal, the crown can match the color of adjacent teeth — making them a great option for front teeth. It's important to keep in mind that the porcelain can chip, damaging the teeth that it comes in contact with while biting or chewing.
  • All-ceramic or porcelain crowns: These crowns do not include any metal underneath, making them the best color match for your natural teeth. They are also a good choice if you have a metal allergy. However, they aren't as strong as crowns with metal and might need to be replaced sooner.
  • Pressed ceramic crowns: This crown has highly-compressed ceramic in its core, making it more durable and long-lasting than regular porcelain crowns. These porcelain-covered crowns provide the best color match for the surrounding teeth.
  • Resin: Resin is a tooth-colored material mainly used for dental fillings. It is often a less expensive option for dental crowns. However, composite resin crowns tend to wear down quicker than other crown types. 

What Are the Different Types of Crowns?

Essentially, there are two types of crowns: 

  • Full crowns
  • ¾ crowns (or onlays).

A full crown covers the tooth entirely. It requires the natural tooth to be filed down more aggressively for it to fit. Because a full crown requires more material and takes more time to put on top of the tooth, it should be no surprise that it's more expensive than an onlay.

An onlay requires reshaping only a small part of the tooth. In many cases, it covers only ⅓ or ½ of the tooth, which makes it a less expensive option. In addition, less of the damaged tooth is filed down to fit an onlay. 

Dental Crowns Applied to the Teeth in Two Visits

Your dentist should ask you to come in for two appointments to install a dental crown: One for preparation and the second for application.

The First Visit 

During the first visit, your dentist will examine your teeth to make sure that a dental crown is the best option — and not something else. They will take an X-ray of the tooth that needs a crown and its surrounding bone.

Suppose your dentist notices significant tooth decay or injury to the tooth's nerves. In that case, they will perform a root canal before proceeding with the crown. A root canal is a fairly common procedure, can be done under local anesthesia, and has relatively little downtime.

Your doctor will apply a dental putty (a type of paste) to your tooth to make the crown. This will allow them to make an impression, essentially a copy of the tooth that will receive the crown. They then send the impression to a laboratory that will use it to create the crown — a process that usually takes several weeks.

During the first visit, your dentist will also file down the tooth set to receive the crown. This will make space for the crown and ensure it fits properly. How much gets filed down depends on the type of crown you're getting: Metal crowns are thinner and require less space, while porcelain crowns may require the reshaping of a larger portion for them to fit. 

If a large portion of your tooth is missing due to damage, your dentist may use a filling material to add volume to the tooth. They can then reshape it to fit the crown's shape. 

The Second Visit

On the second visit to the dentist’s office, your dentist can apply the crown to your tooth. Before proceeding, they will check if the crown fits properly. If not, it will need to be sent back to the laboratory for reshaping.

If the crown fits, your dentist will likely apply some numbing cream to your gums and proceed with applying the crown. To hold it in place, they will apply a material that acts like cement, which should make your crown last for years to come. 

What Are the Side Effects of Dental Crowns?

These are some of the most common issues that people experience when it comes to dental crowns:

  • Discomfort: This is the most common complaint after receiving a dental crown. You might feel discomfort simply because you're not used to the crown, which can take several days to get over. However, you may also feel increased sensitivity, especially when exposing your tooth to hot or cold temperatures. While it may feel uncomfortable, these sensations should go away fairly soon after getting your dental crown.
  • Allergic reaction: Although it is very rare, some people may experience an allergic reaction to metal crowns. These reactions can be delayed but are more commonly immediate. If it happens to you, call your dentist and ask to be seen as soon as possible to fix the issue.
  • Crown chipping: While metal crowns are virtually guaranteed not to chip, porcelain and ceramic are a different story. Due to normal activities, like biting and chewing, you may experience some chipping over time. If the chips are large enough, you may need to replace the crown.
  • Crown loosening: The cement that holds the crown in place can wear away, making the crown loose. This should be addressed as soon as possible, as it can allow bacteria to get inside the crown and damage the tooth underneath.
  • Crown falls off: A crown can fall off if not cemented properly. If this happens to your visible teeth, it can worsen the appearance of your smile. In addition, it can expose the damaged tooth underneath, which can lead to a host of problems. Call your dentist for an emergency appointment to get your crown put back in place if this ever happens to you.

Dental crowns are low-risk dentistry procedures that have very few side effects. However, it is possible to experience some issues after getting dental crowns.

How Long Do Dental Crowns Last?

A dental crown can last anywhere from five to 15 years. You can have a temporary crown or a permanent crown. How long it lasts depends — first and foremost — on the material from which it is made. Metal crowns have the longest lifespan, while all-porcelain crowns have the shortest.

How well you take care of your crowns is also important in preserving them for as long as possible. Anything you do that causes physical stress to the crowns can make them chip or wear away quicker.

Some habits of looking out for include teeth grinding, clenching your jaw, biting your fingernails, and using your teeth to open the packaging.

Fortunately, dental crowns are more durable than natural teeth, so you don't have to be extra careful with them. Recommendations for natural teeth —such as using soft-bristled toothbrushes, special toothpaste, and avoiding citrus fruits — don't necessarily apply to dental crowns. Of course, standard oral hygiene and dental care remain important — getting a crown does not exempt you from flossing!

The Cost of Dental Crowns Depends Many Factors

The cost of a dental crown depends on many factors, including:

  • The type of dental crown you're getting
  • The material it's made from
  • The location of your dentist

For instance, porcelain crowns are usually the most expensive. In addition, metropolitan areas tend to ask for higher prices than rural areas. Regardless, you shouldn't expect to pay more than $1,500 per crown.

Some health insurance companies will cover new crowns if they're applied to damaged teeth. Some dentists may offer payment plans that allow patients to pay in multiple installments if paying out-of-pocket. 

Takeaways 

If you need a dental crown but don't have health insurance coverage, you don't need to worry. Flossy can connect you with a low-cost dental professional to make getting a dental crown as cost-effective as possible.

Schedule your appointment today to see your options for getting a dental crown.

Sources:

Tooth Decay Is the Most Prevalent Disease | PMC 

Allergic Reactions to Dental Materials-A Systematic Review | PMC 

Establishing the Effect of Brushing and a Day's Diet on Tooth Tissue Loss in Vitro | PMC