Your tooth’s enamel – the hard, outer layer – is the strongest and most mineralised tissue you have. But it can still get damaged, e.g. chipped or cracked, through direct injury to the mouth; if you bite on something hard; or if you have a habit of grinding your teeth or chewing on ice and hard candy. Tooth fractures are also common in older people. The severity of the fracture will determine what kind of treatment you need.
When only the enamel has been fractured, in most cases, the only treatment you’ll need is a bit of tooth polishing to improve the appearance of the tooth. With minor cracks, there is no associated pain. But these minor, superficial cracks can become a more serious problem if you are not aware that you have them and do not take proper care of how you use the affected tooth.
A chipped tooth or a major crack – wherein the fracture has gone deeper than the enamel and may have even exposed the tissues and nerves inside and under the tooth – will require immediate treatment. Dental crowns are one of the best options you have to protect your tooth from further damage and improve its appearance.
A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap/prosthetic device that is fitted directly over a damaged tooth. Dental crowns are permanent and can be made from ceramic, resin, porcelain fused to metal, or just metal. The most durable material is, of course, metal. Porcelain and ceramic crowns, on the other hand, have the benefit of looking more natural and as close to the original tooth and the rest of the teeth as possible.
When you first visit your dentist for a dental crown treatment, he or she may require an x-ray of your mouth to be taken so he can more properly examine the roots of the affected tooth and the surrounding bone. Unless he discovers other problems deeper inside the tooth, your dentist will then apply a numbing agent to your tooth and the surrounding gum, and shave off some of the enamel to make room for the crown. In some instances, a filling may be needed if a big piece of the tooth has been lost.
If your dental clinic has access to digital milling technology that enables them to fabricate your crown, you could potentially have your crown fitted on the same day.
Otherwise, your dentist will still have to make an impression of the affected tooth and the one directly above it using a putty-like material. The impressions will be sent off to a lab where the crown will be made. This usually takes two weeks, and your dentist may cover the damaged tooth with a temporary crown to protect it.
When the crown is ready, it is fitted and cemented over the damaged tooth.
Colgate.com offers these oral care tips to help make your crown last a lifetime:
“The most important step you can take to ensure the longevity of your crown is to practice good oral hygiene. Keep your gums and teeth healthy by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily. See your dentist or hygienist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings.
To prevent damage to your new crown or bridge, avoid chewing hard foods, ice or other hard objects.”