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Dental Crowns: From Start To Finish

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As people age, the adult teeth they gained in early adolescence wear down and weaken. Many people, despite good oral care, often need at least one crown by the time they are in their forties or fifties. Crowns preserve the healthy parts of natural teeth and prevent early tooth loss. If you have never had a crown, the process can be intimidating. Here is how the procedure goes, from start to finish.

Recognizing a Chipped or Cracked Molar

Dental crowns are almost always applied to molars and rarely ever to your front teeth. When you experience a broken or chipped tooth, you will know right away. There is usually a sharp cracking sound followed by the immediate sensation of chewing on a piece of bone.  Make an appointment right away, and if possible, see an emergency dentist. A dentist like Silverado Family Dental will assess the seriousness of the damage and let you know if you need a crown.

The Temporary Crown Fitting

This appointment takes about two to three hours, so plan ahead if you can. Your dentist will begin by taking a mold of your teeth exactly as they are now, even with the broken molar. This helps him or her create a crown that fits with the bite of the rest of your surrounding teeth. Next, your dentist will:

  • Numb your jaw with novocaine
  • Drill and sand away most of the damaged tooth, leaving a stub behind
  • Protect the stub--which still contains most of the living tooth--with a temporary crown made in his or her office

The temporary crown is only supposed to last a few days. Eating hot food or chewing hard foods can crack and/or dislodge the temporary crown, so you will have to keep it safe until you return for your permanent crown.

The Permanent Crown Fitting

Within a few short days, you will return to your dentist's office to have the permanent crown fitted. You will be anesthetized and then the crown is fitted. Your dentist will take carbon bite paper and have you bite down and grind so he or she can check the fit. Any spot where the carbon does not leave a mark means that that part of the crown is not quite right. Your dentist will file down the crown repeat this process until your bite is natural, comfortable and reflects a correct fit in the dental carbon.

The Final Steps

Finally, your dentist will release the dental speculums which hold your natural teeth apart for the crown fitting. He or she will test the fit with dental floss to make sure floss can pass through the spaces between your natural teeth and the crown. If it all checks out, your dentist pops the crown off, applies dental grade adhesive, puts the crown back on the stub, and seals it with ultraviolet light. Voila! You have your first crown.