A dental crown is a covering for an existing tooth. It can improve the way a decayed or broken tooth looks and make it stronger and longer lasting. Crowns are usually made from porcelain or a mix of porcelain and metal.
When might you need a dental crown?
Dental crowns can be used to cover a broken or decayed tooth when too much of the original tooth is missing to hold a filling. They are also used to protect a weak tooth from breaking, and to cover stained or badly shaped teeth.
What happens during a dental crown procedure?
Your dentist will usually prepare the tooth by removing a layer of the outer surface of the tooth. The crown will be the same thickness as the thickness of this removed layer.
To make a crown, your dentist takes a mould of your tooth and sends it away to a technician who will prepare the crown. It can often be matched to the colour of your teeth, so it will blend in.
You might be given a temporary crown to get you through until the permanent crown is made.
When your permanent crown is ready, you’ll go back to the dentist and have it fitted using dental cement or adhesive.
How do you care for your dental crown?
Although your crown can’t decay, the edge of the tooth on which it sits can. You will need to brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and floss your teeth, as is usually recommended.
Benefits and risks of a dental crown procedure
Crowns are a way of protecting teeth that are weak or have been broken. They also help improve the appearance of teeth that are irregularly shaped or stained. Crowns can last many years if they are cared for properly.
But sometimes they break or fall off. This might be because the cement doesn’t hold, or it might be because the tooth under the crown has decayed.
Alternatives to dental crowns
There are alternatives to dental crowns. If you want to improve discolouration, then veneers - which are thin layers fixed onto the front surface of a tooth — might be an option. If your tooth is chipped, your dentist may also try to rebuild your tooth structure using filling material.
Last reviewed: February 2019