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Dental Crowns: Which Material is for You?


Posted on: Friday, July 6th, 2012

A dental crown is the most effective way to restore an impaired tooth while retaining its original root structure. This method of rebuilding a tooth with synthetic materials has been in use since around 170 AD. Since then, a variety of materials have been used to construct dental crowns, although it’s still not totally agreed upon which one is most suitable.

What is the Function of a Dental Crown?

There are many different situations in which a crown is an appropriate solution for repair. A few of these include:

  • Protecting a tooth after a large filling
  • Reinforcing a tooth after a root canal procedure
  • Restoring a tooth damaged by injury or decay
  • Restoring a tooth that is badly worn or cracked
  • Functioning as the cap of a dental implant
  • Serving as an anchor for a dental bridge

In any of these situations, modern dental crowns are custom-fabricated to fit into your mouth naturally. The size, shape, and color will be matched closely to the surrounding teeth. Once the crown is shaped, your dentist will reduce the structure of the original tooth to make room and cement the crown into place. Once bonded, the crown will function and feel like a natural tooth.

Materials Used for Crowns in the Past

Archaeologists have dated the first dental crowns as far back as 166 AD in the Etruscan society of ancient Italy. Skeletons have been discovered with makeshift crowns that were made from gold, ivory, bone, and even human teeth. The material of choice was gold – a choice that remained dominant for hundreds of years. The soft metal could be easily molded into the correct shape, yet strong enough to withstand a lifetime of chewing and biting.

While gold served its purpose well, dentists continued to search for materials that were more aesthetically pleasing. In 1889 a man named Charles Hand developed the first all-porcelain crown. This method was popular since the porcelain material fit in well with the surrounding teeth aesthetically; however, these first porcelain crowns were prone to cracking.

In the 1950s researchers developed a way to fuse porcelain onto a metal base; this prevented cracking. It wasn’t until the 1980s that pressed ceramic glass materials were fabricated that proved both aesthetically pleasing and durable. The technique was then perfected in the mid 1990s with the introduction of 3D computer-imaging technology. With a combination of computer graphics and high-density pressed ceramics, incredibly strong and realistic crowns were put into production.

Modern Crowns

While pressed ceramics have provided dentists with realistic and long-lasting dental crowns, some still argue that metal crowns are more durable. Today there are still three main types of crowns available:

All-ceramic crowns are preferred by many dentists due to their realistic and aesthetic appeal. The white materials can be matched to most tooth colors and still prove highly-functional.

Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns can still be matched to surrounding teeth, but the underlying metal does occasionally peek through at the gum-line. On the other hand, the metal material provides a very strong base with great longevity.
Gold crowns are still the most resilient when it comes to trauma. Chomping, biting, and grinding will not wear or damage the gold as it does porcelain materials. The main drawback of gold crowns is the fact that they can be very conspicuous and noticeable next to the surrounding teeth.

At the end of the day, the material chosen for your dental crown depends on each individual situation. Only you and your dentist can decide which material will best serve to restore your smile.

Learn more about dental crowns and restorative dentistry:

Dental Crowns in Somerville
Dental Bridges for restoration
Dental Implant benefits


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Cambridge, MA 02141
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