If you are unhappy with the look of your smile due to your teeth and mention it to your dentist, they may suggest crowns and/or veneers. Both are dental restoration procedures that improve the appearance of a discolored, crooked, or chipped tooth, and if properly administered could provide you with the smile you’ve been dreaming of.
What Are Crowns?
A dental crown is a protective cap for a tooth. It generally covers most of the exterior part of the tooth but can extend to the root surface in some instances. Crowns are typically made from porcelain, zirconia, a combination of porcelain and metal alloy, or all metal alloy.
Particularly if a crown is made of porcelain, it can go undetected by the average person, making the crown a secret that you don’t have to share.
Cosmetically, crowns may be used to:
- restore the shape of a broken tooth
- align a tooth with other teeth without orthodontics
- hide the discoloration of a tooth
- fill in space of a missing tooth, such as holding a dental bridge in place
In addition to providing these cosmetic benefits, crowns can also:
- protect a tooth from continuing to crack
- protect a weak tooth with multiple or very large restorations or in cases of teeth previously treated with a root canal treatment
How Crowns Work
The steps to preparing a patient for a crown do take some time. From start to finish, the process can take several weeks, most of which is due to the time needed for a lab to create a customized crown. While the process can vary from patient to patient, getting a crown usually involves the following steps:
- In order to facilitate the process of installing a crown, most dentists will administer a local anesthetic to numb the affected tooth and surrounding gum tissue.
- The outer surface of the tooth is then sloughed away using a dental drill so that there will be enough room for the crown to properly fit over the tooth. In the case of severe tooth decay, a dentist will likely have to remove that part of the tooth before putting on a crown. The removal of some of the tooth may then, in turn, require it to be built up some in order to properly fit a crown.
- From here, the dentist usually makes an impression that a specialized lab will use to create the form of a crown. Until the final crown is ready, the patient will wear a temporary crown to protect the tooth. A good dentist will work closely with a professional lab to ensure that a final crown is perfectly molded and is a shade that matches the patient’s existing teeth. This attention to detail can result in a crown that does not appear to be anything other than a normal tooth.
- When the final crown is ready, the dentist will remove the temporary one and cement the new crown in place.
What Are Veneers?
Veneers are impermanent and are made to primarily mask cosmetic inconsistencies of the teeth, including color and shape on otherwise strong natural teeth. They only cover the portion of the tooth that is distressed. In most cases, veneers are made from a layer of composite resin or fabricated in porcelain that is adhered to your tooth and can last from five to ten years with proper dental care.
Veneers can be made from a wide variety of shades so that the material will mimic the look of the surface of the surrounding teeth. The presence of a veneer should be unnoticeable to others.
How Veneers Work
In general, the application of a veneer can be as complicated of a procedure as that of a crown. However, some dentists choose to use a specialized lab to create a more flawless veneer, and this can increase the procedure time to a few weeks. Veneers are often more technique-sensitive depending on the materials used.
On average the veneer procedure can work as follows:
- The dentist will examine the tooth and perform sloughing of the tooth surface as needed. If a tooth requires a decent amount of grinding away of the surface, the dentist may administer a local anesthetic.
- If a dentist chooses to have a porcelain veneer created by the lab, they will take an impression of the tooth to send to the lab and will put a temporary veneer in as a placeholder.
- Once the lab designed veneer arrives, the temporary veneer is removed and the permanent one is bonded to the tooth.
How Crowns And Veneers Are Similar
Although crowns and veneers are different in appearance, they are similar in that both can:
- change the cosmetic appearance of teeth that are severely discolored, stained, chipped, or cracked
- improve the appearance of weak, decayed, or crooked teeth
- be designed to match your natural tooth color (unless patient chooses an all metal alloy crown)
How Crowns And Veneers Are Different
Crowns and veneers do have some important differences that help dentists determine which is best for each patient’s specific circumstances:
- Coverage. Crowns cover almost the entire exterior part of the tooth while veneers mostly cover the front of a tooth.
- Cost. A crown and the lab made veneer will vary slightly in cost whereas a composite veneer can be less expensive.
- Use. While some crowns and veneers have interchangeable uses, some are designed for specific situations. Crowns are typically recommended for root canals, large fillings, worn teeth, and cracked teeth. Veneers are used primarily for cosmetic purposes such as discoloration and minor shape correction.
If you are experiencing severely discolored, chipped, or cracked teeth and think you may benefit from the use of a crown or veneer, visit with your dentist about the pros and cons of each to help decide which is best for you.
Are crowns and veneers the same thing?
No, crowns and veneers differ in shape, size, coverage, cost, and use.
Do crowns or veneers have a more complicated procedure?
Putting in a crown can be a more involved process than putting in a veneer.
Can a crown be made to look just like my other teeth?
Porcelain crowns can be designed by a specialized lab to mimic your natural tooth color.
Are crowns or veneers more expensive?
It depends on the complexity of the procedure, but crowns can be slightly more expensive.
Can I get my crown work done in one visit?
Most crown installations take a minimum of two dental visits.