What They Are:
Dental crowns are also commonly referred to as caps. A type of dental prosthetic, a crown covers a tooth that requires restoration. They are often designed to be a natural-looking tooth replacement that matches the rest of a patient’s smile.
Crowns are a versatile restoration used to remedy a variety of dental issues. They are frequently used for teeth that have become weak from extensive decay or physical damage and can either hold a tooth together to prevent it from breaking further or support a tooth that has received a sizable filling. They can also be used for aesthetic reasons for teeth that are worn, misshapen, or discolored. Crowns are also used to anchor a dental bridge and cover a dental implant or tooth that has undergone root canal therapy.
All-porcelain crowns are for those looking for the most natural tooth-like appearance. They are also used if a patient has a metal allergy.
Metal alloy crowns are cheaper and have a longer lifespan than porcelain; however, many find the coloring of these crowns undesirable, so they are frequently used on the backmost teeth that are not easily visible. Metal alloys are also an ideal material for crowns because of their ability to withstand high amounts of pressure and daily usage.
Porcelain fused to metal crowns, often referred to as PFMs, are a metal alloy underlayer with ceramic overtop. PFMs offer the best of both materials and are ideal for teeth that need the strength of metal alloy offers and the natural appearance of the ceramic material. Crowns that are used to anchor a bridge will often be made with a PFM crown.
Lastly, and perhaps least popularly used, are stainless steel crowns. Often, these are used for children’s primary teeth or temporary crowns. They are not an aesthetically attractive material nor do they offer much strength for long-term wear. However, they are cost-effective and ideal in instances where a crown will only be worn for a short amount of time.
All-ceramic crowns can be made in the office, thanks to the advancement of dental technology. Metal alloy and PFM crowns are sent to a lab for fabrication.
The process starts by preparing the tooth for the placement of the crown. To prepare the tooth, it is shaped into a post for the crown to sit over. How much natural tooth needs to be removed will depend on the thickness of the material being used for your crown. Metal crowns can be made thinner because of their strength, while ceramic crowns require slightly more material.
Once the tooth has been shaped, your dentist will take digital impressions of your bite to get precise measurements for your dental crown. These measurements are either sent to a fabricating machine in the office or off to a lab for production.
When the crown is fabricated and ready for placement, your dentist will place it over the newly-shaped tooth. They will check how it fits your bite and make any last adjustments to the shape for a custom match to the rest of your teeth.
What They Are:
Dental veneers, also referred to as laminates, are a shell-like piece of porcelain used to cover the front of a tooth. Thanks to their material, they are incredibly tooth-like in their appearance and are indistinguishable from the natural teeth surrounding them.
Veneers are mostly used for cosmetic restorations. They can restore teeth that are discolored, worn, chipped, broken, misaligned, misshaped, or uneven, and can even close gaps between teeth.
Veneers are for people with minor dental issues who want a smile makeover. The patient must have teeth and gums that are in good health with enough enamel to support the placement of a veneer.
Veneers involve a conservative procedure that requires very little of the natural tooth to be removed—just a mere fraction of a millimeter from the enamel layer.
They aren’t ideal, however, for those with bruxism or who otherwise grind their teeth, as it is highly likely they will eventually become chipped or cracked.
To prepare your teeth for the placement of veneers, your dentist will remove a minimal amount of enamel to create room for the width of the veneer’s material.
After preparing the tooth, your dentist will take a digital impression of your bite to get measurements for your veneers. These measurements will be sent to a lab for precise production.
When your veneers are ready for placement, your dentist will test them on each tooth to ensure the color, fit, and sizing are all correct. They will make any necessary tweaks to create a perfect final fit.
The tooth is then etched to prime it for the bonding agent. Etching gives the bonding cement something to securely grab onto to hold your veneers in place. A special light is then used to harden the bonding cement for a strong cosmetic restoration that will last years to come.