What You Should Do When Your Tooth Crown Gets Damaged

man aggressively showing off his teeth

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Over time, there is a good chance you'll have dental work done that requires the application of external additions to damaged teeth. For a variety of reasons, your teeth might become chipped, cracked, or damaged in some way. Regardless of what causes it to happen, one of the most common forms of restoration done to your mouth is in the form of a tooth crown. A tooth crown is relatively easy to take care of and, as long as you avoid eating harder than normal foods (such as those popcorn kernels that didn't pop), you should be fine. 

However, if you end up damaging a tooth crown, it is important for you to go in and see your dentist right away. Structurally your tooth may not be able to withstand much impact without the crown. So avoiding more serious situations, you need to take care of your crown as quickly as possible. 

What Is A Tooth Crown?

Tooth Crown

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A tooth crown, also known as a dental crown, is a restoration device that places a cap over your current tooth. This cap fits snugly over the original tooth and goes right down to the gums. The tooth crown is used to restore the original look of the tooth. Typically, a crown is used when the original tooth is damaged in some way. It may have cracked or been chipped in an impact of some sort. Whenever this happens there are a few different cosmetic procedures available to you.

If the tooth has died, and it is damaged, you'll likely need an implant. However, if the nerve endings of the tooth are still alive, your dentist will probably recommend either a crown or veneers. Veneers work in a similar manner to a crown, only instead of covering the entire tooth they are only used to cover the front of the tooth. Veneers are often used for the front teeth due to the slender size of the teeth. A dental crown on the other hand is more commonly used for the side teeth as the veneer only covers one side. Both provide a similar functionality in terms of adding structural support to your tooth while protecting it at the same time.

When a tooth crown is applied, the original tooth is likely sanded down. The crown needs to fit inside of your mouth without pushing or altering the alignment of your teeth. Placing a crown directly over a damaged tooth without sanding it down first would require a larger crown. The larger crown would then stick out, prevent your jaw from closing naturally and from your ability to chew properly. The extent to which the original tooth must be sanded down does vary, but if your tooth crown is damaged it puts the smaller, sanded down tooth in potential danger of not only increased damaged, but it may potentially kill it altogether. With less enamel present the nerve endings are often fully exposed.

Different Kinds Of Dental Crowns

There are different kinds of dental crowns. The exact kind of crown you have varies on a few different factors. Usually it comes down to when you had the crown installed in the first place, and whether you wanted to use a precious metal in the crown. 

Metal crowns are made of, as you would guess, some kind of metal. These are stronger than the average crown and are also older than the more common tooth-colored crown. While there are less expensive options such as a chromium or nickel crown, you can also opt for gold. Naturally, these are going to stand out more but sometimes that might be desired.

The resin crown is less expensive than the other kinds of crowns but this is also the least durable crown. If you experience any kind of damage there's a good chance this is the kind of crown you have. The crowns do not always have a long life expectancy and more often than not a resin crown is used as a temp crown while your other, permanent crown is being crafted.

The last two dental crown options are the porcelain with metal crowns or the all porcelain/all ceramic crowns. Porcelain is a fantastic option and looks similar to your original teeth although porcelain on itself may chip. That is why it is infused with metal, to help improve the structural integrity of the tooth. The all porcelain or all ceramic tooth is designed with your mouth in mind and can even be altered to have the same color as your teeth. Because there is no metal within the all ceramic or porcelain design there is an increased chance of suffering damage. The porcelain infused with metal crown has become one of the most popular due to its looks and structural stability.

How Does Damage Occur?

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There are a number of ways a tooth crown might sustain damage. The most common occurs when the tooth sustains a sudden impact. If you are punched in the face, your crown might crack. You could even slip and strike your jaw or a heavy object might fall from a bookshelf and hit you in the jaw. So after any kind of sudden impact it is important to check everything is where it should be.

If you grind your teeth, you may end up cracking your dental crown. The grinding applies force to the tooth which over time may wear down the crown. To avoid this kind of problem, you need to talk with your dentist about ways to prevent grinding. There are some corrective devices designed to alter the way you chew, which you'll use temporarily until muscle memory takes over the rest.

No matter what kind of tooth crown you have, there is regular, everyday wear and tear. It's the same kind of wear and tear the rest of your teeth suffer. While the crown might not be as susceptible to lingering sugar or other bacteria, it still can sustain most other kinds of damage. So just be careful with how you eat.

This is true with the last culprit behind what causes dental crown damage: biting down hard on an object. To extend the life of your crown, you need to avoid biting down on certain objets. Popcorn kernels are one such object. However, other items like hard candy should be avoided. You should also not use your teeth to open stuck objects or bottles.

What To Do When Your Crown Is Damaged

dentist treating a damaged tooth crown

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Following damage sustained to your crown you need to give your dentist a call. They can tell you exactly what to do depending on the severity of the damage. Sometimes, if the crown is completely destroyed and has lost all structural integrity, you'll need to go and see an emergency dentist. This isn't because of the crown but instead because of the exposed tooth. The exposed tooth, with the enamel shaved off, is thin, susceptible to both hot and cool temperatures inside your mouth and it is more likely to fully break or sustain nerve damage.

Should it sustain nerve damage you might need to have a root canal performed. If it fully breaks you might need to have the tooth removed and an implant put in (or at the very least, a bridge between the connecting teeth and the damaged tooth).

Usually, you only must go in and see an emergency dentist if the chipped crown has sharp, jagged edges or if it is extremely painful. As long as it isn't you'll need to wait until you can see your dentist. Chances are you'll be able to make it in within a few days. For this kind of work your dentist will probably be able to see you sooner rather than later. During this time it is important to avoid extremely hot or cold foods (especially liquids) as it may hurt and it may work its way under the damaged tooth crown to the tooth itself.

If the crown has come free, you need to take it off. Trying to keep it on your tooth when loose may cause you to swallow it. Should this happen let your dentist know. They will need to make a replacement crown for you.

If you are bleeding make sure to rinse your mouth out with warm water and apply gauze to anywhere around the gums that might be bleeding.

It is difficult to know whether you may need a replacement dental crown without a direct inspection of the crown. If it is missing part of the crown or if you feel a sharp edge to it then yes, you'll likely need a new crown. Without the sharp edges or missing crown though you must wait for your dentist to check it out.


a good set of teeth

A crown is a very important corrective piece of cosmetic dentistry. You need to take care of this area of your mouth. Should your mouth sustain any kind of damage it is important for you to seek the aid of a dentist as quickly as possible to find what needs to be done.