A 2020 CDC study found that 40.3% of Tennessee’s residents hadn’t seen a dentist or dental clinic in at least a year. The number of adults aged 65 or older who were missing all teeth due to tooth decay or gum disease was an alarming 19.4% and 45.7% were missing six or more teeth.
When gum disease and tooth decay damage a tooth, dental crowns are one of the best solutions. What is a crown and how does it restore and enhance your teeth?
What Is a Dental Crown?
Think of a dental crown as a cap that fits on top of an existing tooth. Sometimes, tooth decay requires too much of a tooth and root to be removed. With a portion of a molar gone, a filling isn’t feasible. In this case, a porcelain, resin, ceramic, glass, or metal crown is created and affixed to the crown (top) of the tooth or over a tooth that’s undergone a root canal. It provides a solid, sealed surface that doesn’t impact chewing most foods.
There are different materials used to make a crown, so you should ask the dentist what the options are. Porcelain is the most common. Resin is generally less expensive, but they are also more likely to break, so you may find yourself paying for more crowns over time, which ends up costing more in the long run. Metal crowns are strong, but they are visible. Porcelain remains a top choice for durability and aesthetics.
The Dangers of Gum Disease
Any dental crown has to be affixed to a prepared tooth, and that tooth must be secure in healthy gum tissue. If gum disease is present, that has to be treated before any work happens with a crown. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. If this is the level you’re at, regular flossing, cleanings, and brushing can turn it around. Toothpaste and mouth rinse products that help treat infection and inflammation may be recommended. The last thing you want is to have work done on teeth that are loose within the bone or gums that are inflamed and could spread infection into the surrounding tissue.
When gum disease is advanced, it may be necessary to strengthen the bone and teeth before any other dental work is performed. Advanced gum disease increases the risk of complications. Antibiotics, periodontal cleaning, and even flap surgery may be required before work begins to place a dental crown.
What Happens During a Dental Crown Appointment?
Before any work is done, a consultation and exam take place. The dentist needs x-rays to determine how extensive tooth decay or gum disease is, as until you address those issues, a crown is not a suitable option. Treating gum disease or a decayed tooth root takes precedence
After the examination, a short-term and long-term dental plan is discussed. After addressing other issues, the dentist fits, creates, and attaches a crown. That process typically takes a couple of visits.
During the first visit, the dentist completes steps to prepare the tooth for a crown. This may mean completing a root canal first or using a file to prepare the surface of the tooth for the crown and cement that holds the crown in place. A topical anesthesia keeps you comfortable during whatever steps your dentist needs to take.
When there is a need to strengthen teeth on each side of a new bridge, the dentist places the crowns initially and then proceeds to work on the bridge to replace the missing teeth. You may be getting dental implants to replace teeth that were too decayed to save. That work is completed before or after placing a crown, depending on what you and your dentist discuss.
After preparing the area, the dentist takes an impression of that space to ensure the crown fits the bite correctly. After that, the dentist sends the impression to a lab, either on-site or off-site, to prepare the crown. Your dentist places a temporary crown before you go home. That temporary crown protects the tooth until your permanent crown is ready.
Once the crown is ready, you return to the dental office to have the crown placed. The dentist removes the temporary crown and checks the new crown to ensure the fit and color are a perfect match. A permanent cement affixes the crown to the tooth. A numbing agent may be used to keep you comfortable during this appointment.
Caring For Your New Dental Crown
Treat your dental crown with care. Chewing hard foods like candies, popcorn kernels, or taffy could loosen or damage it. As a crown is an investment, don’t risk needing to replace it too often. With proper care, a dental crown should last at least 15 years, though some patients get 20 or even 30 years from theirs.
Floss between your teeth, use a toothbrush with soft bristles, and see your dentist regularly. Make sure you drink plenty of water to rinse away food particles and sugars after you eat. Water is the best beverage to consume throughout the day.
When you brush your teeth, use fluoride toothpaste, make sure you don’t push too hard, and brush for a full 30 seconds per quadrant. Modern toothbrushes have sensors that tell you went to move to the next section of teeth and if you’re pushing down too hard. These rechargeable toothbrushes are game changers for oral health when you use them correctly.
If you feel your bite has changed or notice your crown feels different, schedule an appointment with your dentist. A crown can come loose, and the faster you get it re-affixed, the better it is for your underlying tooth.
Don’t Put Off Dental Care
What’s most important is that you get the dental care you need to stay healthy. Tooth decay not only impacts your bite and affects what you can eat, but the infection can spread to your bloodstream and create tremendous problems. Prevent this by seeing a dentist regularly for exams and cleanings.
In Nashville, most patients see their dentist twice a year or every six months. If you have gum disease, more frequent cleanings and exams may be recommended and covered by dental insurance. Make sure you go as often as recommended.
Nashville’s Jody Jones DDS is accepting new patients and specializes in dental crowns. If you suffer from dental anxiety, we understand it and work with you to ensure your comfort at every visit. If anxiety is keeping you away, ask us about our sedation dentistry option, where a mild sedative is used to help you relax. Our goal is to provide a spa-like atmosphere that keeps you feeling relaxed. Request an appointment or virtual consultation today and start 2024 with a healthy, happy smile.