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Porcelain Crowns and Your Valuable Smile

When you think of porcelain, you may conjure up images of valuable dishware stored away in a display cabinet that's only used for special occasions. But there's another valuable use of this material, too – crowning teeth! If you think a porcelain crown may be the best material for your damaged tooth, we'll break down the benefits and disadvantages to ensure you end up with a crown that makes you smile.

What Are the Benefits of Porcelain Crowns?

The biggest advantage of porcelain-based ceramic crowns is cosmetic. They are great for restoring front teeth because they can be made to look like your natural teeth. And there are other advantages, too:

  • Porcelain is biocompatible, so there's little-to-no risk of allergy, infection, or toxicity from the material.
  • It provides a great seal to guard against leakage and cavity prevention.
  • Porcelain can also be fused to metal to increase strength. The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health found that more than 60 percent of these crowns remain strong and undamaged for longer than eight years after they are placed.

What Are the Disadvantages of Porcelain Crowns?

Porcelain is brittle and needs to be a certain thickness to ensure that your crown won't fracture or break from chewing pressure. The thickness necessary for a good crown may require your dental professional to remove an additional portion of the tooth being capped. The brittle quality of porcelain also means they aren't good cap options for your back teeth or other teeth that have a lot of pressure put on them when you chew. Porcelain fused to metal could also cause an allergic reaction if you are prone to metal allergies.

What Are the Alternatives to Porcelain Crowns?

  • Zirconia is a white solid ceramic glaze and one of several newer materials that combine metal's strength with the aesthetic, tooth-like appeal of porcelain. They can be shaped in the dentist's office and need less preparation than other materials, meaning you can be fitted for your crown and have it placed in one appointment. Zirconia can be layered with porcelain for an even more tooth-like aesthetic.
  • Gold alloy crowns are a mix of gold and another metal – usually copper, zinc, platinum, silver, or palladium. Gold alloys bond extremely securely to teeth, won't fracture or wear, and won't wear down surrounding teeth – but they don't look much like teeth, so they're mostly used for teeth located near the back of the mouth. They can be cheaper than options that look more like teeth.
  • Base metal alloys like nickel and chromium are strong and highly resistant to corrosion, too. Base metal caps require the least amount of healthy enamel to adhere to, making them a good choice for extremely decayed or broken teeth. Like gold, base metal alloys don't look like teeth and are typically used in the back of the mouth.

Learn more about crowns and bridges.

What You Can Expect When Getting Your Crown

Depending on whether or not your dental professional has CAD/CAM (computer-aided drafting/computer-aided manufacturing) technology in their office, you can get your crown in either one or two appointments.

In either case, your dentist will file or fill your tooth to prepare it for crown placement, then take an impression of your mouth to determine the shape of your cap. In the past, impressions were made from a gooey substance in a mouthguard that you would bite down on until it dried. Now, most dental professionals use an intraoral scanner to create a quick, clean digital rendering of your mouth.

If your dental professional has CAD/CAM capabilities in their office, they will make your crown right then and there and place your crown on your tooth the same day. Otherwise, your dental professional will place a temporary cap on your tooth, send the impression to a dental lab, and have you return for a second appointment. Your temporary cap will be removed at that time, and the permanent crown will be placed on your tooth.

How Can You Practice Good Oral Hygiene With a Porcelain Crown?

Whatever material you choose for your crown, be sure to practice good oral hygiene as you do with all of your teeth. Brush at least twice a day (non-abrasive toothpaste is the best for porcelain crowns and bridges), floss or clean between your teeth with interdental brushes or water flossers at least once a day, and consider using other helpful products like antimicrobial mouth rinses and tongue scrapers. Be sure to see your dental professional for regular cleanings – not only to keep your teeth pearly white and bacteria-free but also to check the health of your crown.

Porcelain crowns are a great option to cap your tooth if you want a natural look, and when they are strengthened with other materials like zirconia, they can ensure you have a healthy, pearly white smile even longer. If you're looking for a durable material that will be good for teeth in the back of your mouth that do a lot of chewing, you may want to look into other options. Ask your dental professional what they suggest for your specific needs. Whichever material you choose, we hope it makes you smile.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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