Your Guide to Common Dental Procedures: Part 2 – Crowns 

laboratory worker showing a dental crown

In part one of our Guide to Common Dental Procedure Series, we talked about implants, so it only makes sense to talk about crowns next. In simplest terms, a crown is an artificial tooth. There are two basic types: one that is made to replace one that you have lost, and one that covers a weak or damaged tooth. 

In some cases, if you have a broken tooth that needs to be strengthened, a crown will be created to fit over it and provide protection and support.

What is a Crown?

In essence, a crown is an artificial tooth created to replace a damaged or missing tooth. If your tooth has a healthy root, but the enamel is cracked or damaged, a crown can be made to fit over the top of the existing tooth that is damaged. 

Crowns can be used for cosmetic reasons if the natural tooth is unsightly, but they can also be used to protect the integrity of a tooth that has had its structural integrity weakened by a root canal or large fillings. Left untreated, this type of tooth can break when you chew hard foods, or if you grind your teeth at night.

In the case of a missing tooth, a crown can be attached to a titanium or zirconium implant to maintain your smile’s form and function.

Procedure 1: Abutment Crown

When It’s Used

The term abutment crown is a little misleading because it isn’t really a crown at all. It is the metal piece that connects the post that has been implanted in your jaw to the artificial tooth. As such, an abutment crown is used any time you have a dental implant with an attached crown. (To learn about implants, click here.)

What is Involved

The crown abutment is attached to the post right before the crown as part of the same procedure. In the image below, the abutment is the shiny metal piece above the ‘screw’ and below the crown.

How Long It Takes

The placement of abutment crowns is generally done during either the surgical visit or the final visit, so it adds no significant time to the procedure.

Cost Comparison

In the US, an abutment crown can cost between $700-2,000, compared to a cost of $750 in Costa Rica or Mexico

Procedure 2: Porcelain, Emax, and Zirconia Crowns

When It’s Used

Porcelain crowns are an inexpensive option made from a white ceramic that mimics the look of your natural teeth. Porcelain crowns have been around since the late 1800s and were a good option for people who were allergic to metal. It is used for crowns over natural teeth.

Zirconia is a ceramic material made from zirconium oxide that is so hard and durable that it can be expected to last up to 40 years with proper care. It is white in color, resistant to acid corrosion, and smooth enough to prevent the formation of bacterial plaque. It can also be used over natural teeth. Crowns that will be attached to implants are usually made of zirconia. Zirconia is the preferred material for bridges in the back of the arch.

Emax is a brand name for lithium disilicate, an extremely durable glass-ceramic material, stronger than your natural teeth, and therefore less likely to chip or crack the way a traditional porcelain crown would. The material is also slightly translucent, just like your natural enamel, and can be tinted to match your existing teeth. It is most often used for small bridges in the anterior or front of the arch (Pontic Emax- see below) or for crowns on implants, but can also be used over natural teeth.

What is Involved

As porcelain is a ceramic material, these crowns can be made using a mold and then fired, or they can be milled. In either case, the natural tooth must be filed and cleaned, and then an impression of the tooth is made. Once created, the crown is carefully painted or detailed to match the neighboring teeth.

There are two methods used to create a crown from Emax material; pressing the overheated material into a mold or milling it using a cutting and/or grinding tool. Zirconium crowns must be milled from a block.

In order to make a crown that fits precisely, we take digital scans of your teeth. We also take a physical mold of your teeth to be used as a reference. Then our artists will get to work, ensuring that your crown blends perfectly into your smile.

How Long It Takes

Traditionally, getting a porcelain crown made could take up to 2 weeks, since the impression would have to be shipped to a lab where it could be made into a mold, filled with porcelain, fired and glazed, and then painted. Modern technology now allows us to digitally design and mill blocks of porcelain in our own laboratory. That means you can now have a porcelain crown in as little as 3 or 4 days.

Obviously, if you are interested in having implants put in and then crowns made to attach to the implants, then the procedure includes surgery and you will need to factor in healing time. Click 

 to read Part 1 of the series and learn more about implants.

However, if you already have the implants, are getting a crown placed on an existing tooth, or require a replacement crown, they can be made within 3-4 days.

Cost Comparison

In the US, a porcelain crown can range anywhere from $800- $3000 per tooth. In Costa Rica or Mexico that price is $500.

In the US, one Emax dental crown can range from $1,100-1,500, while a zirconium crown can be as high as $2,500 US. In comparison, a crown made in Costa Rica or Mexico starts closer to $600.

Procedure 3: Pontic Emax

When It’s Used

Pontic Emax is a term that describes when an artificial tooth, made from Emax (which is a brand name for lithium disilicate), is attached to crowns on both sides of a missing tooth, to replace that tooth. This creates a structure similar to traditional bridges, but much more durable.

What is Involved

A pontic Emax is a series of crowns made as one unit out of the Emax brand material we discussed earlier. Because the material is extremely strong and the bridge is created as one piece, it is extremely durable and much less likely to break or crack while chewing than a traditional bridge. In order to make the bridge, scans and/or molds will be taken of your teeth, and those scans will be the basis for a digital design that is created. The bridge is then milled from a single block of lithium disilicate and colored to match the rest of your smile.

In contrast to crowns that are affixed to implants, a pontic Emax bridge is affixed to the neighboring teeth by means of crowns fitted over those teeth. This supports the artificial teeth in the center of the bridge.

How Long It Takes

At Meza Dental, our crowns are created in our dedicated lab by our talented team of lab technicians. Four or fewer crowns can be completed in 3-4 days, and any more than that can require a week to produce to our high-quality standards, regardless of whether you are at our San Jose or Cancun clinic.

When the crowns are part of a Pontic Emax then you can expect it to require three separate visits. One to take impressions and shave the teeth which will receive the crowns, one to fit and deliver it, and one final visit to adjust the bite if necessary.

Overall, this usually takes one week from Monday to Saturday.

Cost Comparison

In any country, the average cost of a Pontic Emax will vary depending on the size of the bridge and the number of crowns. The maximum recommended size of a bridge structure is 3 crowns, although in some circumstances 4-5 crowns may be possible.

In the US, the price will range from $3.500 to $6,000 for a 3-crown bridge, whereas in Costa Rica, the price ranges from $1.500  for a porcelain ceramic crown to $1.850 for a Zirconium Crown.

Procedure 4: Temporary Reinforced Dental Crown

When It’s Used

Part of the process for creating a dental crown involves filling down the natural tooth so that the crown can fit over top. This must be done early in the process so that a mold can be made of the tooth and used as a reference by the lab technicians who create the final crown.

Also known as a provisional or interim crown, a temporary reinforced crown is created to protect the tooth that has been filed down while the permanent crown is being made. Filed teeth can also be more sensitive to changes in temperature, so a temporary crown will reduce access to the root and help prevent discomfort.

What is Involved

In order to create your temporary crown, your tooth must first be filed down to its final size and then cleaned. Then an impression is made using dental paste or putty of the tooth itself, and of the opposing teeth that it will chew against.

Our lab technicians create the temporary crown using acrylic-based plastic and attach it using a temporary cement which will be removed later.

How Long It Takes

A temporary crown usually takes less than an hour to make.

Cost Comparison

In the United States, the average cost of a temporary crown is $450, compared to an average cost of $100 in Costa Rica or Cancun.

Procedure 5: Crown Build Up

When It’s Used

Before a crown can be attached to an existing tooth, we must first ensure that the tooth is healthy.  If it is not healthy, we build it up using a process known as a Crown Build Up.

What is Involved

If the tooth already contains a cavity or an older filling, we will remove the filling and/or damaged structure, clean the tooth and replace it with composite resin to create a strong core for the crown to rest on and attach to.

How Long It Takes

This process is relatively quick and painless. If it is completed as part of the temporary reinforced crown process, it does not take up a significant amount of time on its own. On its own, the procedure should take less than 30 minutes.

Cost Comparison

In the US, depending on if a post is put into the tooth, the cost of this procedure is between $350 and $750.

In Costa Rica or Mexico that cost is between $85-150 per build-up.

Thinking About Getting Crowns?

Now that you have an idea of what crowns are, how they are used, and what they cost, feel free to click this link for a free estimate! You can also check out Part 3 where we discuss ways to maintain and repair your teeth before they get bad enough to require a crown!

In the meantime, if you need a crown you can call us toll-free from Canada and the US at 1-(877)-337-6392, our friendly English-speaking staff is ready and waiting to answer all of your questions.

You can also email us at contact@mezadentalcare.com or head to our website for your free estimate

We hope you have found this article helpful!

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