What is a crown?

A crown is an artificial restoration that fits over the remaining part of a prepared tooth, making it strong and giving it the shape of a natural tooth. A crown is sometimes known as a 'cap'.

Why would I need a crown?

Crowns are an ideal way to repair teeth that have been broken, or have been weakened by decay or a very large filling. A crown could be used for a number of other reasons, for example:

  • you may have a discoloured filling and would like to improve the appearance of the tooth
  • you may have had a root filling and need a crown to protect what is left of the tooth
  • it may help to hold a bridge or denture firmly in place.

What is a crown made of?

Crowns can be made of a variety of different materials and new materials are continually being introduced. Some of the most popular options are listed below.

Porcelain bonded to precious metal: this is what most crowns are made from. A precious metal base is made and then porcelain is applied in layers over it.

Porcelain: these crowns are made entirely out of porcelain and are not as strong as bonded crowns. But they can look very natural and are most often used for front teeth.

All-ceramic: this modern technique offers a metal-free alternative, which can give the strength of a bonded crown and the appearance of a porcelain crown. Therefore it is suitable for use in all areas of the mouth.

Glass: these crowns look very natural and can be used anywhere in the mouth.

Gold-alloy crowns: gold is one of the oldest filling materials. Today it is used with other metal alloys to increase its strength, which makes it very hardwearing. These crowns are silver or gold in colour.

How is a crown prepared?

The dentist will prepare the tooth to the ideal shape for the crown. This will involve removing a layer of the outer surface, leaving a strong inner core. The amount of the tooth removed will be the same as the thickness of the crown.

Once the tooth is shaped, the dental team will take an impression (mould) of the prepared tooth, one of the opposite jaw and possibly another to show the way you bite together.

The impressions will then be given to a dental technician, along with information about the shade to use and any other information they need.

What is a post crown?

In root-filled teeth it may be necessary to insert a post into the tooth root before placing a crown. A post gives support and helps the crown to stay in place. The surface of the tooth may be removed down to the level of the gum.

A post can be made of prefabricated stainless steel which the dentist can fit directly into the root canal. Or a custom-made post can be constructed by a dental technician to accurately fit the shape of the prepared root canal. The post is placed into the root canal and cemented in position, ready for the crown to be attached.

Are there any alternatives to post crowns for root-filled teeth?

If a root-filled tooth is not completely broken down, it may be possible for your dentist to build it up again using filling material. This 'core' is then prepared in the same way as a natural tooth and the impressions are taken.

What will happen between visits?

A temporary crown will be made so that you can use the tooth while you wait for the crown to be made. This crown may be more noticeable but is only temporary.

How is the crown fitted?

When you and your dentist are happy with the fit and appearance of the new crown, it will be fixed in place with special dental cement or adhesive. The cement forms a seal to hold the crown in place.

How long does the treatment take?

You will need to have at least two visits. At the first visit, your dental team will prepare the tooth, take the impressions, make a note of the shade of your tooth, and fit the temporary crown. At the second visit, your dentist will fit the permanent crown. There will usually be about 1 to 2 weeks between appointments.

Does it hurt to have a tooth prepared for a crown?

No. You will have a local anaesthetic and the preparation work should feel no different from a filling. If the tooth does not have a nerve, and a post crown is being prepared, then you may not need a local anaesthetic.

Will the crown be noticeable?

The crown will be made to match your other teeth as closely as possible. The shade of the surrounding teeth will be recorded, to make sure that the colour looks natural and matches those teeth.

Will the crown feel different?

Because the shape of the crown will be slightly different from the shape of your tooth before it was crowned, you may be aware of it at first. Within a few days it should feel fine, and you will not notice it. The crown may need some adjustment if your bite does not feel comfortable, and if this is the case, you should ask your dentist to check and adjust it.

What will it cost?

Costs will vary according to the type of crown and the material used. Always get a written estimate and treatment plan before starting any dental treatment.

How do I care for my crown?

It is important to keep the crown just as clean as you would your natural teeth. The crown itself cannot decay, but decay can start where the edge of the crown joins the tooth. Brush last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste, and clean in between your teeth with ‘interdental' brushes or floss.

How long will the crown last?

How long your crown lasts depends on how well you look after it. Properly cared for crowns should last for many years. Your dental team will be able to tell you how long your crown may be expected to last.

What is a veneer?

A veneer is a thin layer of porcelain made to fit over the front surface of a tooth, like a false fingernail fits over a nail. Sometimes a natural-colour ‘composite' material is used instead of porcelain.

When would I need a veneer?

Veneers can improve the colour, shape and position of your teeth. A precise shade of porcelain can be chosen to give the right colour to improve a single discoloured tooth or to lighten your front teeth. A veneer can make a chipped tooth look whole again. The porcelain covers the whole of the front of the tooth, with a thicker section replacing the broken part. Veneers can also be used to close small gaps, when orthodontics (braces) are not suitable. If one tooth is slightly out of position, a veneer can sometimes be fitted to bring it into line with the others.

What are the advantages of veneers?

Veneers make teeth look natural and healthy. Because they are very thin and are held in place by a special, strong adhesive, very little preparation of the tooth is needed. Some types of veneers don't need any preparation at all.

How are teeth prepared for a veneer?

Some of the shiny, outer enamel surface of the tooth may be removed, to make sure that the veneer can be bonded permanently in place later. The amount of enamel removed is tiny and will be the same as the thickness of the veneer to be fitted, so that the tooth stays the same size. A local anaesthetic (injection) may be used to make sure that there is no discomfort, but often this is not needed. Once the tooth has been prepared, the dental team will take an ‘impression' (mould). This will be given to the dental technician, along with any other information needed to make the veneer. The colour of the surrounding teeth is matched on a shade guide to make sure that the veneer will look entirely natural.

How long will it take?

A veneer takes at least two visits. The first is to prepare the tooth and match the shade, and the second is to fit it. Before bonding it in place, your dentist will show you the veneer on your tooth to make sure you are happy with it. Bonding a veneer in place is done with a special adhesive, which holds it firmly on the tooth.

Will I need a temporary veneer between visits?

Because the preparation of the tooth is so slight you will probably not need a temporary veneer. The tooth will look very much the same after preparation, but will feel slightly less smooth.

What happens after the veneer is fitted?

Only minor adjustments can be made to the veneer after it is fitted. It is usually best to wait a little while to get used to it before any changes are made. Your dental team will probably want to check and polish it a week or so after it is fitted, and make sure that you are happy with it.

How much will it cost?

The costs for this treatment can vary from practice to practice so it is important to discuss charges and treatment options with your dental team before starting treatment.

How long will a veneer last?

Veneers should last for many years; but they can chip or break, just like your own teeth can. Your dental team will tell you how long each veneer should last. Small chips can be repaired, or a new veneer fitted if necessary.

What about alternatives?

A natural-coloured filling material can be used for minor repairs to front teeth. This is excellent when the tooth can support a filling, but may not work so well for broken tooth corners. There will always be a join between the tooth and the filling material.

Crowns are used for teeth which need to be strengthened - either because they have broken, have been weakened by a very large filling, or have had root canal treatment.

What is a veneer?

A veneer is a thin layer of porcelain made to fit over the front surface of a tooth, like a false fingernail fits over a nail. Sometimes a natural-colour ‘composite' material is used instead of porcelain.

When would I need a veneer?

Veneers can improve the colour, shape and position of your teeth. A precise shade of porcelain can be chosen to give the right colour to improve a single discoloured tooth or to lighten your front teeth. A veneer can make a chipped tooth look whole again. The porcelain covers the whole of the front of the tooth, with a thicker section replacing the broken part. Veneers can also be used to close small gaps, when orthodontics (braces) are not suitable. If one tooth is slightly out of position, a veneer can sometimes be fitted to bring it into line with the others.

What are the advantages of veneers?

Veneers make teeth look natural and healthy. Because they are very thin and are held in place by a special, strong adhesive, very little preparation of the tooth is needed. Some types of veneers don't need any preparation at all.

How are teeth prepared for a veneer?

Some of the shiny, outer enamel surface of the tooth may be removed, to make sure that the veneer can be bonded permanently in place later. The amount of enamel removed is tiny and will be the same as the thickness of the veneer to be fitted, so that the tooth stays the same size. A local anaesthetic (injection) may be used to make sure that there is no discomfort, but often this is not needed. Once the tooth has been prepared, the dental team will take an ‘impression' (mould). This will be given to the dental technician, along with any other information needed to make the veneer. The colour of the surrounding teeth is matched on a shade guide to make sure that the veneer will look entirely natural.

How long will it take?

A veneer takes at least two visits. The first is to prepare the tooth and match the shade, and the second is to fit it. Before bonding it in place, your dentist will show you the veneer on your tooth to make sure you are happy with it. Bonding a veneer in place is done with a special adhesive, which holds it firmly on the tooth.

Will I need a temporary veneer between visits?

Because the preparation of the tooth is so slight you will probably not need a temporary veneer. The tooth will look very much the same after preparation, but will feel slightly less smooth.

What happens after the veneer is fitted?

Only minor adjustments can be made to the veneer after it is fitted. It is usually best to wait a little while to get used to it before any changes are made. Your dental team will probably want to check and polish it a week or so after it is fitted, and make sure that you are happy with it.

How much will it cost?

The costs for this treatment can vary from practice to practice so it is important to discuss charges and treatment options with your dental team before starting treatment.

How long will a veneer last?

Veneers should last for many years; but they can chip or break, just like your own teeth can. Your dental team will tell you how long each veneer should last. Small chips can be repaired, or a new veneer fitted if necessary.

What about alternatives?

A natural-coloured filling material can be used for minor repairs to front teeth. This is excellent when the tooth can support a filling, but may not work so well for broken tooth corners. There will always be a join between the tooth and the filling material.

Crowns are used for teeth which need to be strengthened - either because they have broken, have been weakened by a very large filling, or have had root canal treatment.