A crown is like a special sleeve made of metal or porcelain, or both, that goes over a damaged or weak tooth. Your dentist will match it up to the shape – and, in the case of porcelain crowns, colour – of your other teeth so it will look natural. The crown will probably last for many years, depending on the health of the tooth underneath.
The dentist will shape the tooth so that, with the artificial crown, it will be the same size as a normal tooth. Preparation time will depend on how damaged the tooth is and whether it needs to be built up with a filling first. The tooth might have to be root-filled first – this is sometimes called ‘removing the nerve’. The crown is sometimes held in place by a peg in the root canal if a lot of the tooth is missing.
Your dentist will use a soft mouldable material to make an exact ‘impressions’ of the tooth that is to be crowned and the nearby teeth. A dental technician uses the impressions to make the crown the exact height and size needed. A thin cord may be used to hold the gum away from the tooth so that the impression is accurate round the edges.
A temporary crown made of plastic or metal is put over the tooth until the permanent crown is made. You can chew on a temporary crown but it won’t be as strong as the finished one. When the crown is fitted, your dentist will make small adjustments to make sure you can bite comfortably. The crown is tried on first, and then glued into place.