The Common Types of Dental Crowns Explained

Your dentist looks in your mouth during a routine exam and tells you that you need a crown. No, not a tiara for your head, but a special covering for a damaged tooth.

Your teeth contain a protective enamel that, over the course of years and use, can become decayed, worn, or cracked. At that point, your dentist can place a crown made of artificial material on top of that tooth, protecting it in the future.

There are several types of dental crowns, and they vary in composition and price. Is this the best solution for your teeth? Read on to find out.

When Are Crowns Needed?

An artificial crown is usually the solution to the following dental problems:

  • When a filling becomes too large and the tooth is too damaged
  • When a tooth is weak and fractured, to prevent further cracks or chips
  • When you need a dental bridge to replace missing teeth
  • When a tooth implant, root canal, or poorly-shaped tooth needs protection

The main purpose of a crown is to offer a weakened tooth or teeth more protection and durability. Crowns have an aesthetic purpose as well, sometimes closing gaps in teeth and improving the appearance of the mouth.

Types of Dental Crowns

Crowns consist of several different types of materials. Some materials are more durable than others, so the type of crown you need will depend on the location and purpose of the damaged tooth.

Here are some of the types of crowns dentists use, and their costs.

Ceramic Crowns

Ceramic crowns are made of porcelain. This type of crown is usually used to address cosmetic issues in the fronts of teeth, such as discoloration or chipping.

The porcelain can be the exact shade of your other teeth. Because there is no metal used in this type of crown, there is no risk of toxicity.

Porcelain is not commonly recommended for molars, especially if you clench and grind your teeth. The average cost can range anywhere from $800 to $3,000.

Porcelain Fused to Metal Crowns

In this type of crown, porcelain and metal are heated together, so they chemically bond to form a more durable material.

This is the most common material for dental crowns and bridges since this material is stronger than plain porcelain. These crowns are also less expensive than pure porcelain crowns, at around $500 to $1,500.

Sometimes, the metal part of the crown will show at the gum line, which takes away from the clean look of pure porcelain. And again, this material is often not durable enough for those who clench or grind their teeth.

Gold Crowns

Crowns that appear to be gold are actually a combination of gold, copper, and various other metals. Gold alloy crowns are very strong and will not fracture.

Gold alloys are also biocompatible with gum tissue. This type of crown also requires the least amount of natural tooth removal to fit.

Some people aren't thrilled with the look of a gold crown, although gold crowns are mainly used for back teeth, which aren't as visible. Gold crowns range from $600 to $2,500.

Base Metal Crowns

An alternative to gold crowns is those made of base metal alloys, such as nickel or cobalt. These crowns are also incredibly strong and non-corrosive. As with gold crowns, only a small amount of tooth structure must be removed before fitting.

Contrary to silver fillings of the past, metal crowns are not toxic to the body.

Stainless steel crowns are often made for baby teeth or as a temporary crown for an adult. This material is not durable enough for any kind of permanent crown solution.

Crowns made of base metals are slightly less expensive than those made of gold or other noble metals.

Zirconia and E-Max Crowns

Zirconium is a relatively new crown material that has the strength of metal and the look of porcelain. One advantage of this new material is that it can be fitted and cut right in the dentist's office, as opposed to sending it out to a dental lab.

Zirconia-made crowns cost about the same as porcelain crowns.

E-Max Lithium disilicate crowns are made of the newest material available today. They are like a ceramic crown but made of lithium. They are durable, metal-free, and attractive. They can be more expensive, and may not be covered by insurance.

Which Type of Crown Is Right for Me?

Your dentist will recommend one of the types of dental crowns based on these factors:

  • location of the damaged tooth
  • how much of the crowned tooth will show when you smile
  • position of your gum
  • the function of the damaged tooth
  • how much natural tooth is remaining
  • color of the teeth surrounding the crown

It is important to discuss with your dentist the potential costs of each type, and your personal preferences. Check your dental insurance to see what part or type of crowns might be covered before you make a final decision.

Keep in mind that a temporary crown will be fitted for you while the permanent crown is being made. While some dental offices offer one-day crown fittings, this will cost more and could be an out-of-pocket expense.

Should your damaged tooth or teeth need preliminary work before the crowing, such as a root canal, that will cost more as well.

Getting Dental Crowns

Fitting any types of dental crowns is a standard procedure for most dentists. It's usually done under a local anesthetic, with minimal discomfort to the patient. There can be some pain and swelling after the procedure, but ibuprofen or Tylenol can help alleviate it.

If you take care of your teeth by brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist regularly, your crown will last a good 15-30 years. Although it can be costly, it's the best way to keep your teeth in good shape for a long time.

A great dental team is a must for those who value their teeth. If you are in the Rock Hill or greater Charlotte area, call us for all your dental needs.