Dental Crowns

By fitting a cap over the original tooth, a dental crown can be used to improve its appearance or strength. A crown may therefore be of benefit to someone who has any of the following conditions: a weak, cracked or broken tooth, a large unsightly filling that needs covering, or a discoloured tooth.

It can also be used to hold a dental bridge in place, to cover a dental implant or to make a cosmetic modification to a tooth which the patient is unhappy with for any reason. Dental crowns may also be used on children to protect very badly damaged teeth.

Fitting A Crown

There are a number of different substances that can be used to make crowns including; stainless steel, gold alloys, porcelain fused to metal, all resin, and all ceramic. Which is best will depend on your budget and the aesthetic effect you want to achieve. Once you have chosen the type of crown you want, it will need to be manufactured to fit your mouth - this will generally take a few days.

Before your bespoke crown can be fitted, the original damaged tooth will need to be drilled down using a special shaping drill (known as a burr) until it forms a small stump. The dental crown is then placed on this stump and cemented into place so it stays there permanently.

Pros And Cons Of Crowns

Having a crown fitted is a relatively common technique which any dentist can perform for you. The advantages are that it can improve the appearance of your teeth, and some of the modern porcelain crowns can be matched to the colour and translucency of your natural teeth. These are therefore ideal for those teeth at the front which are most often on show when you smile.

crowns, or caps, can be used to improve the appearance and strength of existing teeth

However, as porcelain crowns aren't very strong, they are generally deemed unsuitable for molars which experience a lot of wear, and dentists will normally recommend a metal crown which may be less aesthetically pleasing but will have a much longer life.

Alternatively, the porcelain fused to metal crowns do have a natural look and a longer life, however as the gum recedes, the metal at the crown's edge can become apparent over time.

Another slight drawback to the procedure itself is that it may not be completely pain free, especially since it involves having the tooth filed down in preparation for the crown's fitting. Also, depending on the patient's actual needs, a crown might not always offer the best solution and dentists may recommend having a dental veneer for more minor flaws.

Finally, it should be worth noting that even the best crowns will not last forever and the general recommendation is that they will need to be replaced after a period of around 15 years.

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How Long Does A Crown Last?

A crown can potentially last a lifetime, however, there is of course the risk that they will loosen or fall out over time.

In order to prevent this from happening, ensure you practice good oral hygiene. This means brushing twice daily with toothpaste that contains fluoride, along with regular flossing and the use of an antibacterial mouthwash. Dental disease is a key cause of crowns and bridges becoming loose, and so keeping teeth and gums healthy is an easy way to prevent this. Abstaining from chewing hard foods, gum, ice and other hard objects can also lessen the chances of your crown being damaged. In addition to practicing good oral hygiene, you should also make regular appointments with your dentist for check-ups and cleanings.

Recovery And Aftercare

In the initial hours following the dental crowns procedure, it is normal to experience a degree of numbness and discomfort. During this time, patients should refrain from biting down on the cheeks or tongue, and therefore may want to avoid chewing gum to lower the risk of this accidentally happening and causing damage. As the numbing agent wears off, you may experience sensitivity to hot or cold foods, and so may wish to avoid these or chew on the other side of the mouth as the tooth heals. This sensitivity should subside within a couple of weeks, a point beyond which you should be able to resume your normal oral health care routine.

Prices Of Crown Fitting

The cost of having a crown fitted will depend on the dentist you choose and the type of crown you opt for. A porcelain one can cost anywhere between £300 and £1,000, whereas a porcelain and metal one will cost £350 - £450. The all metal ones can cost anywhere from £250 upwards. However, due to the relatively high cost of this procedure, many dental clinics will offer finance options to help you spread the cost over 6 to 12 months.

NHS Crown Fitting

Having a crown fitted on the NHS is possible when the tooth is damaged in some way and the dentist deems it necessary. The procedure is unlikely to be available for those seeking purely cosmetic alterations.

If your dentist is able to offer you this treatment on the NHS, it is classed as a Band 3 treatment which currently costs * £222.50, but it should be remembered that NHS treatments are unlikely to include the highest quality porcelain crowns and you may have a strictly limited choice in terms of what materials are used and therefore its final appearance.

There may also be a long wait before you are able to get an appointment with an NHS dentist for a crown fitting unless it is a dental emergency.

For those on low incomes, you may be able to get help towards some (or all) of the cost through the NHS low income scheme. To apply for this you will need to complete a HC1 form which is available from dental surgeries and job centres.

*Cost as of December 2015.

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