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A dentist may prescribe a dental crown to treat the following conditions:
To form an artificial tooth with a dental implant
To restore functionality of a broken, fractured, or a worn down tooth
Improve how a tooth looks, such as by fixing crookedness or severe staining
To protect natural enamel at risk of fracturing, such as after root canal treatment
To minimize the risk of a cavity or a fracture by permanently replacing the enamel
You may also need a new crown if a dental filling or an old crown has failed.
A dental crown doesn’t always completely cover a tooth. Therefore, a dental crown may be a
A full crown
A 9/4 or 7/8 partial crowns
A full crown completely covers the enamel of a tooth from all sides. As in, it provides complete wall coverage for the tooth.
The other types of crowns only partially offer coverage, often as only three-fourth crowns. Partial crowns are easy to place, but may not be sufficient for most uses. Sometimes dentists may use a partial crown to determine how well the gums retain the crown.
There are two main types of materials dental crowns are made from:
A metal alloy
You can also choose a metal-ceramic hybrid crown. Each has its own unique upsides and downsides. Here are further explanations of materials dental crowns are made from:
Metal alloy dental crowns are made from, predictably, different types of metals. There are actually different grades of alloys used in crowns. That is, high-noble or noble and base metal alloys, as described by the American Dental Association.
Referred to as high-noble or noble alloys, these are metal crowns made mainly from gold. Gold in its purest form is too soft and risk-prone to use as dental crowns. Therefore, gold alloy is mixed in with other metals to give it strength.
Dental crowns may get categorized as noble or high-noble based on a percentage of gold present in the composition, and also the overall hardness of the crown. The gold percentage is directly related to how strong a crown is.
For example, Type IV noble alloy crowns contain between 60 and 78 percent of gold and is thus knows as the hardest type of noble alloy crown. Type I has the highest concentration of gold and is thus the least hard in the group. Only gold crowns ranging from Type III to IV are used as full crowns in treatment programs.
A gold alloy is mixed with these metals to give the crown strength: zinc, copper, platinum, nickel, palladium, and indium.
Gold crowns may look really nice in your mouth. But there are other reasons to use noble alloys crowns as well. Type II and IV crows are highly durable and strong. These crowns can withstand wear inside the mouth quite well. The crowns can be strong without requiring much bulk as well.
When a gold crown gets old, it’s easier to restore its luster back to original with a good polishing. Plus, dentists find it easier to sculpt teeth from noble alloys.
A number of different metal alloys and combinations are used to design base metal crowns. Base metal crowns may be designed using silver, palladium, copper, titanium, stainless steel, nickel, chromium, beryllium and cobalt. More often than not, dentists combine different alloys to create the dental crowns. Common combinations include silver and palladium, or cobalt and chromium. Titanium crowns are usually made with a single alloy.
Base metal crowns are quite hard, definitely harder than gold-based crowns. That can make it difficult to insert in the mouth. In certain parts of the mouth, base metal crowns can cause wear on nearby natural teeth. Plus, people with specific metal allergies can’t wear them anyway. For these reasons, dentists rarely make base metal crowns anymore.
Titanium might be an exception. Titanium crowns are not of mixed variety. The metal is highly biocompatible, meaning it can function well with the real teeth in your mouth. The metal is rigid but also ductile. Unlike other metals, titanium can form an oxide layer on the surface of the crown, so it’s less prone to corrosion.
Ceramic dental crowns are made based on porcelain. However, dental porcelain is different in composition from the porcelain in your household china. Dental porcelain contains other material like quartz (also silica) or glass up to a certain percentage. Dental porcelain is classified differently based on its composition.
Compared to metal, dental porcelain is more brittle. However, the material is highly aesthetic compared to metal crowns. Ceramic crowns can resemble natural enamel remarkably well. Metals make it more obvious if you are wearing a crown.
Here’s a rundown of common materials ceramic dental crowns are made of:
Silica-based porcelain crowns have a high percentage of glass, plus a number of filler material. These crowns are slightly reflective and can look very much like natural enamel. But glass is fragile and lacks mechanical strength. Therefore, silica crowns are mixed with fillers like lithium disilicate to give it strength.
Alumina is a recently invented type of porcelain. The material is made by bringing it close to an electric current. The process forces the glass particle of the alumina onto the surface while pushing non-glass particles inward. As a result, alumina crowns look shiny and enamel-like on the outside but lacks the fragility of glass inside.
Zirconia crowns are relatively new. It is a type of ceramic that is much harder than the usual glass-based varieties. Zirconia is commonly a brand name for the mineral zirconium oxide. It’s hardened with yttrium oxide for use in dental crowns.
Zirconia crowns are designed using the latest 3D technology and based on digital recreations of the interior of your mouth. Inside the mouth, the mineral may grow. Though it’s hard, it’s unfortunately not as hard as metal. But the material doesn’t wear down nearby teeth.