Which crown material is best for you?
Dental crowns are a restorative dental prosthetic used for a variety of purposes. Incredibly versatile, the dental crown can protect a weak tooth from further decay and breaking due to a crack, restore a severely worn tooth, cover a misshapen or discolored tooth, cover a dental implant or root canal, or act as an anchor for a dental bridge.
The materials used for dental crowns are chosen for different reasons based on placement in the mouth, the restoration role of the crown, the desired outcome, and, ultimately, the patient’s budget.
Here are the 5 best materials for crowns.
Are you surprised? You wouldn’t be alone. A lot of people think of gold crowns as antiquated or for movie villains. However, gold has been used to create dental crowns for centuries. In fact, the first known use of crowns dates back to 200 AD and the Etruscans. Among other materials, they used gold to create dental crowns and bridges.
In addition to having a rich history (pun-intended), gold is biocompatible, meaning it isn’t harmful to human tissues. And when combined with a small amount of other metals to form an alloy and overcome its softness, gold is a great material for protecting teeth, while holding up against wear and pressure from daily eating and talking. It has the added bonus of being able to do this while needing to be applied in just a thin, minimal layer, preserving as much of the natural tooth as possible.
The main drawback of gold crowns for many is its color. We understand that few people today want to walk around with a visible, gleaming gold tooth front and center of their smile. For this reason, gold alloy dental crowns are ideal for back teeth that are rarely, if ever, seen by others.
All-ceramic, also referred to as porcelain, dental crowns are ideal for those with allergies to metals. Perfect for both front and back teeth, all-ceramic dental crowns, due to the translucent quality of their material, offer a superior match to natural teeth. This material also acts as an effective buffer against hot and cold sensation—good news for those who suffer from sensitive teeth.
All-ceramic dental crowns can be expected to last anywhere between five and 15 years. They are a very strong material; however, this can be a negative trait for those who are prone to grinding. Ceramic is a harder material than teeth and can damage surrounding natural teeth. Another factor to take into consideration when choosing all-ceramic crowns is that they are thicker than all-metal crowns and may require more of the natural tooth to be removed for a comfortable, secure fit.
3. Metal Alloy
Metal alloys are typically a mixture containing gold, platinum, or chromium combined with other metals. They last the longest in terms of wear compared to the other materials available for dental crowns. They are able to withstand the continuous daily pressure from eating and rarely chip or break.
As with gold alloy dental crowns, metal alloy crowns require just a small amount of the natural tooth to be removed in order to efficiently provide the necessary protection and structure.
Similarly to gold, the main drawback for many when considering metal alloy crowns is their metallic coloring. For this reason, metal alloy crowns are typically placed on back-most molars that are rarely seen by others.
4. Porcelain Fused to Metal
Offering the best materials for crowns of both worlds, porcelain fused to metal, often abbreviated to PFM, is a popular choice for dental crowns.
As with all-ceramic, PFM dental crowns can be acutely color-matched to your natural teeth. They come second only to all-ceramic when it comes to looking like a natural tooth. PFM crowns are a great choice for both front and back teeth, as well as for teeth that will act as an abutment for dental bridges. Due to the strength of the metal layer, PFM crowns make an excellent choice for bridge abutments.
Of course, as with all options, there are a few downsides to this material. Those with a receding gum line will begin to notice a dark line around the edge of their gums as the metal layer underneath begins to show through. And similarly to all-ceramic, the porcelain layer of a PFM crown is susceptible to breakage when not properly cared for or when abused. It is important to care for and use your new teeth just as you would your natural teeth, meaning you should avoid using them as tools, grinding them from stress, or chewing on hard candy or ice. These materials are strong and a great option for your dental crowns, but they are not indestructible.
5. Stainless Steel
Stainless steel crowns are one of the best materials for crowns to use for children whose primary teeth need to be preserved until they become loose and fall out on their own. They are pre-fabricated and are a cost-effective option, requiring fewer trips to the dentist office compared to other crown materials. Stainless steel crowns are also often used as temporary crowns for adults who are waiting for a permanent crown to be fabricated.