Dental crowns are one of the most common types of cosmetic and restorative dentistry. They provide support for cracked, broken, decayed, or misshapen teeth. There are many reasons for getting dental crowns, but many patients are surprised to learn that crowns vary widely in cost and even appearance.
Here’s what you need to know about different materials used to make permanent dental crowns, so you can choose which material is right for your smile.
Gold was the most common material used for crowns before other materials were developed. Because pure gold is too soft for crowns, dentists use an alloy. Gold still offers plenty of advantages over other materials:
- Thinness. Other crown types typically need to be thicker to provide proper support. Because gold is malleable, less of the tooth has to be filed away to fit the crown.
- Durability. Some people need crowns because they have damage from clenching or grinding their teeth. Other crown types are less forgiving, so gold is the best option, especially for molars. Gold crowns can last for decades without replacement.
- Lower reactivity. One of the reasons dentists use gold instead of other metals is because gold is the least likely to cause irritation to the delicate tissues in your mouth.
The obvious downside of gold crowns is the color—they are not the best choice for a uniform smile. However, if only one of your back teeth needs to be capped, don’t be so quick to dismiss gold. It is one of the most accurately fitting types of crowns with the longest lasting results. They are also the least abrasive on your other teeth.
There is nothing like a porcelain crown when it comes to full cosmetic effect. A nicely crafted porcelain crown is a work of art, and offers these benefits:
- Realistic. It matches the shape and size of your original tooth exactly. Porcelain has the semi-transparent appearance of real teeth.
- Strong. Porcelain is a strong material, so it takes a good deal of force to damage the crown.
- Decreased sensitivity. Porcelain provides a good buffer for hot and cold sensations, making it more comfortable for you to enjoy hot soups and cold drinks.
Unfortunately, there are some downsides to porcelain. Porcelain is actually harder than your natural enamel, so when you chew or grind your teeth, the porcelain crown can actually damage neighboring teeth. This is why porcelain crowns, while beautiful, are not the best option for those who have trouble with bruxism and clenching.
Porcelain crowns are also thicker than metal gold caps, requiring that more of your original tooth be filed away to make room for the fitting. If your tooth is already unstable, a different material may be needed. They can also be more expensive because of the artistry involved in their creation.
Porcelain crowns will eventually need replaced in your lifetime, as they typically last from 5 to 15 years. You can extend their life by chewing carefully, avoiding hard foods like ice and brittle candy, and not using your teeth to chew fingernails or open packaging.
Porcelain Bonded to Metal
Some crowns are made with porcelain fused to metal. These were the result of trying to marry the beauty of porcelain with the functionality and longevity of gold. The most common types of bonded porcelain crowns are made with gold.
The lower layers of the crown are gold, while the final layer is made with porcelain. This helps to offset the blatant appearance of an all-gold crown. These crowns are very durable, but there are some drawbacks. The metal layer beneath the porcelain can stain the gum line to look dark gray or black. The gold layer will also give the crown a more opaque look.
These combination crowns are most suitable for patients who still have trouble with grinding their teeth but who really don’t like the idea of an all-gold cap, or for those who have several gold-based crowns already and need a replacement to match to the others.
The drawbacks of gold and porcelain crowns can be mitigated with zirconia-based crowns. Zirconia is derived from the metal zirconium, and it mostly mimics the properties of ceramic materials. It is exceptionally strong, providing an excellent base for a porcelain finish. These crowns can be stained to look identical to real teeth. You’ll find it nearly impossible to tell the difference.
Other benefits include less tooth removal and reduced brittleness. These ceramic-like crowns do not need to be as thick as porcelain crowns, and they will not break as easily. These crowns are still a new science, however, so they are less common than bonded, metal, or porcelain crowns.
One of the least expensive options for crowns is dental resin crowns. These are not as strong or as durable as the materials listed above, so they need to be replaced much more often. However, they can be a good “temporary” permanent crown until you can save money for longer lasting option.
For more information on crown materials and costs, contact us at Valley Oak Dental Group Inc.