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Ask an Expert: Dental Crowns 101

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Dr. Erika Whitehouse shares everything you need to know about dental crowns.

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Dr. Erika Whitehouse is committed to continuing her education to stay up to date on industry advancements and best practices. Her practice, Derby Dental, is a full-service dentist office offering a variety of services, including dental exams and cleanings, wisdom-tooth removal, porcelain veneers, teeth whitening, Invisalign, dental implants and more. Born and raised in a small town in Kentucky, Whitehouse grew up going to the same family dentist for years. Her dream is to build long-lasting relationships with her patients and bring that small-town feel to the city of Austin.

What exactly is a crown?

A crown is a protective cover or cap that seals a tooth, making it stronger to chew with. If a tooth has a big filling or cavity that makes up more than half of the chewing portion, the tooth is susceptible to breaking. If a tooth breaks, it can cause pain, the need for a root canal or even worse: losing the tooth altogether.

What are some of the signs indicating I may need more than a filling fix?

Often, there are no signs to the patient that indicate a tooth is in need of a crown. It usually takes advanced imaging from X-rays or clinical exams. However, signs could include pain when chewing, broken or chipped teeth or changes with sensitivity to cold.

What can I expect from the procedure and will it hurt?

The crown procedure is a two-step painless process. The first appointment is when the work is done on the tooth while the tooth is numb, and you will leave our office with a temporary crown we make for you that day. After just a few weeks, our talented lab technician completes your custom-made strong crown that we will insert at our office during your second appointment. The crown is permanently placed over the tooth and will look and can be treated as a normal tooth.

Why would my dentist suggest I get a root canal and not a crown?

A root canal is a procedure to treat a dead or dying nerve inside the tooth. After a tooth has had a root canal, it will always need a crown to protect it from breaking. A crown procedure is used to fix a broken or damaged tooth and does not require a root canal as long as the nerve is still healthy. This is why it is important to treat a tooth needing a crown as soon as possible after it is recommended in order to avoid breaking the tooth or injuring the nerve. However, sometimes a nerve is damaged beyond repair and that is not always known until after the crown has been completed. So, it is important to keep up with regular follow-up appointments so your dental providers can keep a close eye on all your teeth and address problems early.

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