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If you suffer from dental phobia, it can often mean that you delay what should be fairly routine dental treatments so that, ultimately, you need even more complex dental requirements. If you avoid having a filling, your tooth may decay further and you may require a crown. So what is a crown and what is involved in having one fitted?

What is a crown?

A crown is usually recommended by dentists when the repair job required on a particular tooth is too big for a filling to be appropriate. One of the advantages of having a crown fitted is that the material is tooth-coloured and tooth-shaped – so once you have your crown in place it will look just the same as your natural teeth.

Why do I need one?

There could be a number of reasons why you need a crown. Ultimately, however, it will be because a filling would not provide the right level of repair. Therefore, people have crowns fitted when they teeth have been broken, perhaps in a sporting accident for example. When teeth are broken, they cannot be ‘filled’ and so a crown is fitted over the top of the broken tooth.

Other reasons why a crown may be required are because a tooth has decayed so much that it will not support a filling. A crown can also be used to provide protection for other types of dental work, for example if you have undergone a root filling or if you have had dentures fitted. Once again, a crown will usually be fitted over the top to protect the repair work beneath.

What does the procedure involve?

The procedure for fitting a crown usually requires two appointments with your dentist. The first visit usually involves the preparatory work, while the second involves actually fitting your crown.

Preparatory work: your crown will be shaped to fit your tooth, so during your preparatory visit your dentist will do two things. Firstly, the surface of your existing tooth will be trimmed and shaped for the crown. Once this has been done, your dentist will create the mould that will form the basis for the shape of the crown. The accuracy of the mould is vital, because the crown will have to complement your other teeth and your bite action, so that it does not affect everyday functions you take for granted, such as chewing.

The fitting: during your first visit, your dentist will usually fit a temporary crown so that the right amount of time can be spent getting your permanent crown correct in shape and colour. It has to be the perfect match for you. It will normally take up to two weeks to prepare the permanent crown. Once you and your dentist are happy with the crown, it is fitted in place with dental cement and should then last for many years.

Should I be nervous about having a crown fitted?

No, not at all. Crowns are usually fitted under local anaesthetic and are no more painful that a conventional filling. If you are dental phobic – particularly if you have a phobia about needles or injections, for example – make sure you talk to your dentist in advance.

What questions should I ask my dentist?

One of the most important questions you will have to discuss with your dentist will be what sort of material your crown is made from. The dental industry is constantly striving to create better materials that are more durable, easier to clean, more natural looking, or more cost-effective. So there are new materials appearing all the time.

Most crowns are made from either porcelain, ceramic or glass. Depending on where you need the crown and how strong it needs to be (teeth at the front do less chewing, so the emphasis may be more on aesthetics here), then the crown may also be partly bonded metal, so that it is stronger and lasts longer.

The majority of people prefer their crowns to look as natural as possible. Some people, however, choose the opposite, and gold is often used too.

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