How to Know If You Need a Dental Crown: Signs and Symptoms

Posted by Dr. John Vellequette 2024-05-28

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How to Know If You Need a Dental Crown: Signs and Symptoms  

Dental health is essential to overall well-being, and timely intervention can prevent minor issues from escalating into major problems. One of the most common restorative procedures in dentistry is the placement of dental crowns. A dental crown is a custom-made cap that covers a damaged, decayed, or unattractive tooth. Crowns can be made from various materials, including porcelain, ceramic, metal, and composite resin. They are designed to restore the tooth's shape, size, strength, and appearance. Crowns are typically used when a tooth is too damaged for a filling or other restorations.  


Signs You Might Need a Dental Crown  

Severe Tooth Decay  

Tooth decay, or cavities, is one of the most common reasons for needing a dental crown. When decay becomes severe, it can destroy a significant portion of the tooth structure, making it impossible to restore with a simple filling. A crown can encapsulate the remaining tooth, protecting and preventing further decay.  


Symptoms of Severe Tooth Decay  

  • Persistent toothache or sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods.  

  • Visible holes or dark spots on the tooth.  

  • Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.  

  • Swelling or pus around the affected tooth.  


Broken or Fractured Teeth  

Teeth can break or fracture due to trauma, biting down on something hard, or because of large fillings that weaken the tooth structure. A cracked or broken tooth can cause pain and sensitivity and increase the risk of infection.  


Symptoms of a Broken or Fractured Tooth  

  • Sharp pain when biting or chewing.  

  • Sensitivity to temperature changes or sweet foods.  

  • Visible cracks or chips in the tooth.  

  • Pain that comes and goes, indicating a possible fracture 


Large Fillings  

Large fillings can weaken the remaining tooth structure, making it more susceptible to breaking or cracking. If a significant portion of your tooth is filled, a crown may be recommended to provide additional support and protection.  


Symptoms Indicating the Need for a Crown Over a Large Filling  

  • Pain or discomfort when chewing.  

  • Sensitivity to temperature changes.  

  • Visible cracks around the filling.  

  • Recurrent decay around the filling area.  


Root Canal Treatment  

A root canal removes the infected or damaged pulp from inside a tooth. While this procedure can save the tooth, it is often weakened and more prone to fracture. A crown is typically placed over a tooth that has undergone a root canal to restore its strength and function.  


Symptoms After a Root Canal Indicating the Need for a Crown  

  • Brittleness or weakness in the tooth.  

  • Discomfort or pain when biting.  

  • Sensitivity to pressure or temperature changes.  


Worn Down Teeth  

Teeth can become worn down due to grinding (bruxism), acid erosion from diet or medical conditions, or general wear and tear. Worn teeth can affect your bite and lead to further dental problems.  


Symptoms of Worn Down Teeth  

  • Flattened, worn, or shortened teeth.  

  • Increased tooth sensitivity.  

  • Jaw pain or discomfort due to changes in bite alignment.  

  • Chips or cracks in the teeth.  


Cosmetic Reasons  

Sometimes, dental crowns are used for cosmetic purposes to improve the appearance of discolored, misshapen, or uneven teeth. Crowns can provide a uniform, natural-looking smile.  


Cosmetic Symptoms Indicating the Need for a Crown  

  • Discoloration that doesn't respond to whitening treatments.  

  • Misshapen or uneven teeth.  

  • Gaps between teeth that affect the appearance of your smile.  

  • Teeth that are too small or too large compared to others.  


The Dental Crown Procedure  

Initial Consultation and Examination  

During your first visit, your dentist will examine your teeth and determine if a crown is best. X-rays may be taken to assess the tooth's condition and surrounding bone.  


Tooth Preparation  

The tooth receiving the crown will be shaped to make room for it. This involves removing a portion of the tooth's outer surface. If the tooth is severely damaged, a filling material may be used to rebuild the tooth structure.  



After shaping the tooth, your dentist will take an impression of the prepared and opposing teeth. This impression is sent to a dental laboratory where the crown is custom-made.  


Temporary Crown  

A temporary crown, typically made from acrylic or composite material, will be placed over the prepared tooth to protect it while the permanent crown is being fabricated.  


Fitting the Permanent Crown  

Once the permanent crown is ready, your dentist will remove the temporary crown and check the fit and color of the permanent one. Adjustments may be made to ensure a perfect fit.  


Cementing the Crown  

After ensuring the crown fits properly, your dentist will use a special dental cement to bond the crown to the tooth. The excess cement is removed, and the crown is polished to blend seamlessly with your natural teeth.  


Post-Procedure Care and Maintenance  

  • Brush twice a day and floss daily to maintain good oral hygiene. Pay special attention to the area around the crown to prevent decay and gum disease.  

  • Avoid chewing on hard foods or objects, such as ice or pens, which can damage the crown.  

  • Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings. Your dentist can monitor the condition of the crown and address any issues early.  

  • If you grind your teeth, consider using a night guard to protect your crown and other teeth from wear and tear.  


Recognizing the signs and symptoms that indicate the need for a dental crown can help you seek timely and effective treatment, preventing further dental issues and enhancing your oral health. Visit Smile Center Silicon Valley at 877 W. FREMONT AVE, SUITE L3, Sunnyvale, CA 94087, or call (408) 245-7500 to learn more about how dental crowns can transform your smile and improve your oral health. 


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