Porcelain crowns are most commonly used to protect and support teeth damaged by disease or trauma. Today's highly advanced crowns are more effective than ever—and more life-like and attractive.
For instance, dentists often install a crown for a tooth that's endured long-term decay. It's often necessary for a dentist to remove significant portions of affected dentin of a decayed tooth over time, which weakens its overall structure. By crowning the tooth, a dentist can both protect it from further decay and provide it structural support. For similar reasons, dentists routinely place crowns after root canal treatments.
To fulfill their role in preserving and strengthening teeth, crowns must be made of durable materials. For this reason, earlier generations of dentists often turned to crowns composed of precious metals like gold or silver, which could withstand daily chewing forces. But these metal crowns did have one downside: Other than shape, they little resembled real teeth.
Crowns later became more life-like around the middle of the 20th Century with the advent of a type of crown composed of a metal shell encased with a tooth-colored porcelain layer. Marrying functionality with aesthetics, these porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns became quite popular and reigned supreme until the early 2000s.
At that time, advances in dental porcelain led to the emergence of the all-ceramic crown. The effort had started a full decade before when dental labs began adding a material called Lucite to porcelain to give it strength. With further improvements, these new porcelain materials, which no longer required metal for durability, soon displaced PFMs as the most commonly installed crown.
Today's dental patient now has more crown choices than patients in previous generations. Especially useful for visible teeth (those in the "Smile Zone"), an all-ceramic crown now enhances rather than detracts from a tooth's appearance. Metal and PFM crowns haven't gone away either—they're often used with teeth that encounter heavy biting forces like molars, and which are not as noticeable.
With more choices, patients no longer need sacrifice their appearance to protect their teeth. You can now preserve a troubled tooth—and still maintain an attractive smile.
If you would like more information on restorative dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Crowns & Bridgework.”