Dental crowns are very durable, but they are not intended to last a lifetime. Normal use such as biting and grinding can cause them to wear them down and eventually break or crack. Depending on the extent of the damage, a broken crown can sometimes be repaired, but this is not always the best option. Dr. Steven C. Hewett in Champions Gate, FL is an expert in reconstructive dentistry and has some helpful advice on this topic.
What Happens When a Crown Is Damaged?
You might have been very happy for several years with the appearance of your dental crown, but now you’ve noticed a break or chip and are wondering what to do next. A crown that is badly damaged can cause considerable pain if there is still living pulp in the remaining tooth underneath. Even a small crack can cause sensitivity to hot and cold, so this is an issue you will want to address promptly.
When we see patients with damaged crowns, we first assess the extent of the damage before determining the next steps. If the damage is minor, a repair will be the most cost-effective solution, but in most cases, the crown cannot be saved. In this situation, the patient will be fitted for a new crown, or we may suggest the more durable and permanent option of a dental implant.
Repairing a Broken Crown
If the patient wishes to save the crown, we will assess the situation to see if this is feasible. A small chip can often be repaired with resin, and the patient may be able to get several more months out of this repaired dental work. Resin repairs are a temporary solution – a crown that has been patched with this material will not be as strong as the original crown. However, this can be a good option if you need extra time to think about whether you want an implant.
Another option for very small cracks or chips can be to file and polish the crown. Again, this is a “quick fix” and not considered a long-term solution. At some point in the not-too-distant future, the broken crown will need to be replaced.
If a Crown is Affecting Your Bite
Perhaps your crown isn’t broken, but it was never fitted properly and is now causing you jaw pain. A crown that has shifted or which was never sized or positioned properly in the first place can affect your bite, which over time can cause significant discomfort. In some cases, a dentist might be able to reshape the crown to ease jaw tension, but usually, this type of situation calls for a complete replacement.
When the Issue Is Purely Cosmetic
Sometimes patients have a crown that is perfectly functional but it doesn’t look quite right and is affecting their confidence. A crown that is a poor match to surrounding teeth can be very detrimental to a person’s smile and certainly to their self-esteem. If this is the case, we can look at replacing the old crown with a new one, or with a dental implant that is a perfect match to the patient’s other teeth.
When a Crown Can’t Be Saved
If the broken crown is beyond repair, you will be fitted for a new one. While you are waiting for this new crown to be made, a temporary one can be inserted. The wait time for a new crown is usually a couple of days. At this point, many patients decide to switch to a dental implant, which is a more permanent solution. Having a dental implant placed is a longer process but patients tend to be very pleased with the results, which will last a lifetime.
Crowns vs Implants: What Is the Best Option?
There are two options for patients with damaged teeth: dental implants or dental crowns. While a crown simply caps what is left of an existing tooth, a dental implant replaces the tooth entirely. An implant is connected to the bone and functions exactly like a real tooth.
The main benefit of a dental implant is that it is a permanent tooth that you will never need to worry about again. Consisting of a root, abutment, and crown, this is a very durable structure that looks and feels exactly like a real tooth. There is, of course, a crown component that may eventually require a repair or replacement, but the basic structure of the tooth is permanent.
The reason why many patients choose a crown over an implant is that it’s a more simple, cost-effective treatment. However, since basic crowns installed over a filed-down tooth tend to require so many repeat visits to the dentist, you will likely find that in the long run, an implant is actually the most cost-effective solution.
Dental implants are rooted right into your jawbone, creating a solid foundation that blends perfectly with your natural teeth. We ensure a perfect color match to any remaining teeth or other dental work, creating a beautiful end result. Many patients find that their smile has never looked better and that the extra effort of getting an implant was more than worth it.
Who is Eligible for Dental Implants?
Most patients will be good candidates for implants, but it is important to have solid bone support in the jaw. Dental implants are fused to your jawbone, so the patient must have the adequate bone density to support this. For example, an elderly patient with advanced osteoporosis will not likely be a good candidate.
Patients should also be in good overall health since dental implantation is a surgical procedure that requires general anesthesia. At your consultation, we will take a look at your medical history to determine if an implant would be a viable choice for you. If not, a crown can still be a great option.
Taking Care of Dental Work to Make it Last
If you have ever had a broken crown, you know that a crown needs to be protected in order to maximize its lifespan. While we can’t avoid an unforeseen accident, there are certain good habits that can be followed to keep your crowns and other dental work in good shape.
Practicing good oral hygiene and not biting down into anything hard are obvious things you can do to take care of your crowns. Not using your teeth to open packaging is another must. If you have a tendency to grind your teeth, ask your dentist about investing in a mouth guard to protect your crowns and natural teeth while you sleep.
What Affects the Lifespan of a Crown?
As discussed, bad habits such as grinding your teeth or crunching down on hard materials such as ice or candy can significantly shorten the life of your crowns. Another factor to consider is the material that your crown is made from. Metal crowns do tend to be more resilient than porcelain or ceramic ones. However, porcelain creates the most natural look, which is why it is the most popular choice (particularly for front teeth).
How Long Do Dental Crowns Last?
A well-maintained crown can last anywhere from 5 to 15 years. Again, the material used for the crown can greatly influence this timeline. For example, an all-porcelain crown will be at the shorter end of the spectrum, while a porcelain-fused metal crown will be more durable. A full metal crown could potentially last for up to 20-25 years. There are also crowns made from solid gold – these will be the most durable of all and can potentially last a lifetime.
The Importance of Regular Visits to the Dentist
Going for regular check-ups to make sure your dental work is not showing any signs of damage is key. Your dentist can determine if there are any bite issues or decay that need to be addressed before they become bigger problems. We can also assess the state of your crowns and give you an idea how much longer you can expect to get out of them. It’s sometimes a good idea to replace a crown early before it becomes a painful or embarrassing problem.
Life Is Too Short Not to Smile!
If you have concerns about your dental work and would like more information on your options for a new crown or dental implant, contact us today at Steve C. Hewitt D.D.S in Champions Gate, FL. We would be pleased to set up a consultation to discuss your options for improving the appearance and functionality of your teeth.