What do you do about a tooth that’s broken or cracked, severely decayed, or just went through a root canal? In most cases, the answer is a dental crown. Dental crowns are caps that are permanently cemented into place over the stump of a tooth (or in the case of dental implants, over an artificial post), replicating the look and feel of a real tooth. Crowns can be made of porcelain, ceramic, resin, or even metals like gold or stainless steel. If you’ve got a tooth that’s too damaged to remain in place and function properly, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up with a crown.
It’s nothing to worry about, though! Recovering from a dental crown placement usually isn’t painful, and after a while you’ll be so used to your crown feeling and functioning like a normal tooth that you probably won’t even notice it being any different than your real teeth. It used to be the case that getting a dental crown was a fairly involved, time-consuming process involving multiple visits to the dentist’s office, and having to wear a temporary crown while the permanent one was being fabricated.
These days, there are faster, computer-assisted methods of creating dental crowns, and many dentists’ offices can offer you CEREC crowns that are measured, shaped, and produced in a single, same-day visit.
The CEREC process was initially devised in 1980, and was first used on actual patients five years later. In the years since, many dentists have adopted it as an easier, faster, less error-prone method of creating permanent crowns. CEREC stands for “Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics,” and refers to a process of creating dental crowns with computer-aided design and manufacturing.
A dentist that offers CEREC crowns will have intraoral cameras and a milling machine right in their office, allowing them to create digital 3D models of your teeth, adjust the look and shape according to your individual requirements, and create the permanent crown from a solid porcelain block all in one visit. Traditionally-produced crowns are created from molds taken of your teeth, which are then sent to a laboratory where human technicians shape and construct the final product. Skilled technicians can indeed create precise, aesthetically pleasing crowns, but there are many opportunities for human error to introduce flaws into the process either in the molding phase or when the crown is being made.
With CEREC crowns, the manufacturing process is entirely digital, and if there does happen to be any issue with the look or fit of the finished crown, you won’t have spent weeks waiting for it only to find out you’re going to have to go through the whole process again. It also avoids the potential problems of having to wear temporary crowns that can slip or fall off, introducing the risk of further damage or allowing neighboring teeth to crowd in, creating problems with fitting the permanent crown once it’s ready.
The major advantages of CEREC crowns are speed, convenience, precision, and cost-effectiveness. Most patients and dentists who have experience with CEREC crowns report high levels of satisfaction and no significant drawbacks in comparison with traditional, lab-created crowns. One situation where waiting for a crown made in a lab may be preferable is when highly visible front teeth are being replaced.
In this scenario, where the tooth is likely to be frequently seen by others and matching the shape and coloration of your natural teeth will be a high priority, it can be worth it to have a technician with a keen eye and years of experience take the time to make the crown look just right. However, many dentists with CEREC experience will be able to create very impressive-looking crowns by finishing them with paint, polish, and glaze.
A dental crown is a prosthetic that you’re going to be using on a daily basis, and it’s of utmost importance that it feels right, fits correctly, and is strong and durable enough to function alongside your other teeth. You definitely don’t want to cut any corners when it comes to getting a procedure as important as this, but by all indications, CEREC crowns perform just as well as crowns made in the old-school way.
If you’ve got a dental situation that’s likely to lead to you needing a crown, you should talk to your dentist to see if CEREC crowns would be a good option for you. In most cases, you’re likely to find that it makes a lot of sense to get your crown fitted, produced, and placed all in the same visit.