Dental crowns refer to the area of the teeth that are visible when we smile. Hidden beneath the gums is the root, and like a king’s crown, the dental crown is located on top of each tooth.
Crowns are responsible for cutting, crushing and tearing up the food when we eat, while keeping the bite from collapsing when teeth have contact on one another, not to mention the ever important task of maintaining a proper facial profile.
When a tooth is lost, other teeth will naturally start to fill the space it creates, causing bite and position problems.
Anatomically, a tooth is divided into two parts: the root(s) and the natural crown. Natural crowns are exposed to bacteria and debris in the mouth, and are therefore prone to decay when oral hygiene is poor. Roots can also become affected, leading to periodontal problems.
When natural crowns are extensively damaged, fillings are no longer the preferred treatment due to a higher probability of fracture. False or manmade crowns then become the treatment of choice. False crowns are classified according to their extension, which is dictated by the amount of crown damage. Classification is as follows:
- ½ crown
- ¾ crown
- 4/5 crown
- 7/8 crown
- Full crown
These classifications indicate how much of the tooth structure is spared, with a half crown preserving the highest amount of natural tooth and a full crown saving the least amount of natural tooth. However, full crowns are generally preferred because they are usually more aesthetically pleasing and are less complex for the patient and the doctor.
Crown placement requires that cavities must be removed and in certain cases a root canal treatment may be necessary. After these procedures, the tooth’s surface is ground down to create sufficient space for the crown material and eliminate undercuts. The amount of overall work varies for each type of crown.
Full crowns may also be classified according to their composite materials. Click here to learn about different materials for dental crowns.
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