Crowns & Veneers

How do you know if your tooth needs a crown? Crowns (or caps, as some people call them) are used when a broken or weak tooth needs more support than a simple filling can provide. Dr. Hartfield can evaluate your tooth and give you the best options for your specific condition.

What Is a Crown?

A crown is a covering for the outside surface of the tooth. It is made of a ceramic (porcelain-like) material, a metal material, or a combination of the two. It looks like a tooth and covers the part of the tooth that is above the gum line. The tooth is generally cut down a few millimeters in all dimensions so that when the crown is placed, it will be back up to normal size.

How Is a Crown Placed?

Crowns take two appointments to make. At the first appointment, the tooth receives a base filling (if needed) which replaces missing or broken tooth structure and provides a strong core for the crown. Next, the tooth and core are reshaped and reduced in size to prepare the tooth for the crown.

A copy of the tooth is then made in the mouth using a putty-like material and a plastic or metal tray. This is referred to as taking an impression. The impression is used to make a model of the tooth, which the lab then uses in creating the final crown.

The lab portion of the crown procedure typically takes about a week, so a plastic temporary crown is placed over the prepared tooth to cover it until the final crown is ready. At the second appointment, the temporary crown is removed and the final crown is tried on, fitted (if necessary), and cemented into place.

Why Do I Need a Crown?

Reasons for needing a crown:

  • History of a large filling – when the tooth is missing a large amount of natural tooth structure, it is weaker and more prone to breaking.
  • A large area is broken off.
  • A large area is weakened by decay.
  • History of having a root canal – when the tooth has a root canal, it loses its blood supply and becomes more brittle.
  • The tooth is cracked.

Broken and weakened teeth benefit from having the crown surround the weakened tooth structure. When you bite on a weak tooth, you can put cracking and splitting pressures on the tooth. When you have a crown, it encircles the tooth and this can help bind the tooth together, which helps keep it from cracking. Without the crown, biting pressure may cause a weak tooth to crack and, unfortunately, if that crack extends below the gum line or the tooth splits vertically, the tooth may be non-restorable and will have to be taken out. Crowns can help save teeth over the long term.

Porcelain Veneers

Veneers are small porcelain shells that fit over the front surface of your teeth. They are used to change the shape or shade of your teeth or to give more protection to front (anterior) teeth that have large fillings. Veneers are often used to close gaps between the front teeth (called diastemas.) Whether it is to close a diastema or to improve the shape of a malformed or broken tooth, veneers can be used to help create a more beautiful smile.

The procedure to make veneers is very similar to the procedure to make a crown. First, the tooth or teeth need to be re-shaped so the veneers can fit over them and not be too thick. An impression is made of the reshaped teeth and is used to make a model for the lab to create the porcelain veneers.

Depending on how much tooth is reduced, the patient may wear plastic temporary shell veneers while the lab makes the real porcelain veneers. Once the veneers come back from the lab, the temporaries (if used) are taken off and the porcelain veneers are fitted, adjusted, and cemented into place.

Please Contact Us for More Information

If you think you may need a crown or a veneer and want to discuss your options, call Dr. Hartfield at (618) 234-7100. She will be happy to go over all your options and help you decide the best treatment for you. 

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