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Friday, May 2, 2008

Your Own Crown Jewels

A Dental Crown is something familiar to most people who fit into the baby boomer generation or earlier. Crowns, often referred to as “caps,” have been around almost as long as the modern profession of dentistry itself.

Today, crowns remain a staple in the repertoire of dental services. Crowns effectively restore teeth to virtually new condition in terms of form, function, and appearance. Our teeth perform many very important functions in our daily lives. The obvious task of chewing our food, while taken for granted, is literally a life function. Without good teeth, the first step of digestion is compromised which can negatively affect life-supporting nutrition. As we age, the joy of eating our favorite foods makes a healthy and functional set of teeth of paramount importance. Teeth also play a vital role in communication. The phonetic components of speech are formed by how we shape sound with our tongue and teeth. Furthermore, the non-verbal act of smiling may be the single most communicative expression in human society. Each tooth is indeed a jewel to be treasured, maintained, and if necessary, rejuvenated with a modern crown restoration.

There are a number of reasons dentists recommend crowns for their patients. The most common indications for crowns are to restore teeth that have been significantly broken, cracked, or have large cavities. Teeth that have large fillings, which may be at risk for cracks, are also often suggested to have crowns to prevent them from breaking. Typically, most teeth that have had root canal treatment require a crown for final restoration. Cosmetic improvement remains an indication for crowns, as well. Crowns offer the dentist and patient complete control of the appearance of teeth in terms of shape and color.

Years ago, we had only a couple of choices for crown materials. They included gold or “porcelain fused to metal” (porcelain baked onto a metal substructure). Today, there are dozens of choices, but they can be boiled down to three basic kinds of crowns: gold, porcelain fused to metal, and the state-of-the-art, metal-free, all-porcelain crown. Each has its advantages and ideal indications. Gold is still used, but it is typically reserved for the very back teeth that aren’t seen. Porcelain fused to metal combines the strength of metal with the cosmetic appeal of porcelain. It works very well; however, on front teeth it has the disadvantage of creating what is commonly called “black line syndrome." You may have seen people with crowned teeth that seem to have a dark area at the gum line. Today, we have all-porcelain (also called “all-ceramic”) crowns that are ideal for cosmetically prominent teeth. They offer the beauty of a completely natural appearance and, if done well, are indistinguishable from natural teeth. If a crown is recommended, be sure to ask your dentist which type is best for you.

There are many factors that make for a quality crown. Attention to detail and the dentist’s time spent with you are good indicators. Your crown should look and feel natural. It should fit your bite perfectly and touch the opposing tooth just like your natural teeth come together. It shouldn’t catch or trap food, and should be easy to clean. Floss should go around crowned teeth with a smooth snap and shouldn’t shred on the way in or out. With good home care and regular professional maintenance, your “crown jewels” should last a long time.

For more information and to see before and after photographs of actual cases, visit our website at:

Dr. Barr’s practice, Palm Beach Smiles, is located at Boynton Beach Blvd. and I-95. You can contact us at: 561-736-2377.

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