image of different type of dental crowns

Dental Crown Alternatives
Craig Sommer DDS

Are There Any Dental Crown Alternatives?- I Don’t Think I Want A Crown.

Before we start speaking about dental crown alternatives it’s important to describe just what a crown is. A traditional dental crown is a term used by dentists to describe a restoration that covers much of the visible parts of a tooth. If you are having this conversation, you have a significant problem with one or more of your teeth.

Crowns are usually used to restore a tooth that has been damaged by decay, an expanding filling, a blow to the face, biting on something hard or weakened by a root canal. After a traffic accident, slip on the ice, or just fainting in the sun, several dental crowns may be needed to restore your teeth.

It’s what a dentist would describe as a major procedure in the attempt to protect and preserve your tooth or teeth.

Why would you need a dental crown?

The problem may start with a small cavity on the outside of a tooth. As a cavity increases in size it moves through the outside enamel layer and into the second layer of the tooth. This second layer is called dentin. The second inner layer forms the bulk of your tooth and supports the enamel on the outside. Enamel is much harder than dentin, but it is also much more brittle.

As a cavity increases in size it softens the inside dentin, and the outer enamel can collapse inward, like an old mine shaft. This can occur gradually, or all at once, and often without any warning.

If the collapsed area is relatively small a filling might be used to restore both the damaged dentin and the overlying enamel.

How does a dentist choose how he will restore a damaged tooth?

This is where experience, training and a dentist’s philosophy, or way of thinking will make the biggest difference. If a dentist was trained to use mostly mercury silver fillings, that’s what he will use.

Mercury silver fillings do not stick to teeth, so they must be “locked” into place, like puzzle pieces, by making a hole that is bigger underneath the surface than on the outside. The hole for the filling is often much larger than the original cavity or decayed spot. This weakens your tooth. The larger the mercury silver filling, the weaker your tooth becomes.

When your dentist sees more filling than solid tooth, he knows that the tooth has a higher risk of fracture during daily use. The harder the food you chew, under those circumstances, the greater the risk of breaking the tooth.

What can happen when I break a tooth?

When you break a tooth with a large filling, it might be possible to refill the tooth with an adhesive bonded composite filling. These are also known as tooth colored fillings.

I like this material for a number of reasons. First, it contains no toxic mercury. Second, it’s adhesive properties allow it to be bonded, essentially glued into place, strengthening your tooth. This is a one dental crown alternative.

Teeth that have properly placed adhesively bonded composite fillings are actually much stronger than those with a similar size mercury silver filling.

If you have a fracture it’s also possible to expose the nerve inside your tooth which may lead to a painful toothache or an infection of the nerve. When this happens it’s quite possible that your dentist will recommend a root canal treatment or removal of the fractured tooth if it not restorable. Sorry.

Is there a root canal alternative?

If a fracture comes close to the nerve within a tooth, there are bonding techniques that may keep a nerve from being infected and requiring root canal or tooth removal. So don’t wait for pain to occur, but call your dentist immediately for advice.

There are a number of techniques that may reduce your chances of needing a root canal, but they may not completely eliminate it as a possibility. You have to see your dentist to make that determination. I personally try to avoid root canal treatments for my patients since they are not always successful. A conservative bonded adhesive dentistry or biomimetic approach may be the best one to seek out when searching for a new dentist. Many holistic and biological dentists incorporate those philosophies into their routine practice.

The best advice I can give you is to see your dentist regularly so that small problems can be detected early, so more conservative and less costly treatments can be provided. The dental crown cost is considerably higher than the cost of a small composite filling, so good home care and regular visits to your dentist can keep your expenditures to a minimum.

Unfortunately, we may see you after you’ve already bitten down on something a hard and you’ve broken a tooth. It might be painful, but if there is no nerve exposure we may be able to restore the tooth with a crown.

What Do You Mean I’ve Got A Cracked Tooth? It Doesn’t Hurt

We often see teeth, that are not sensitive, with two, three or more mercury silver fillings.

In these teeth the chances are very high that a fracture, in the early stages, exists underneath the fillings. This tooth is at great risk for the hidden fracture extending into the nerve or between the roots. It is like an earthquake fault line, waiting for the big one to hit.

Watch this same thing happen on the windshield of your car. You can catch a big rock and you have a fracture that immediately extends all the way across your windshield or get a small chip and watch it grow slowly over time until your windshield needs replacement.

It’s almost impossible to predict when you will bite on something hard in your food, or clench your teeth really tight, and split your tooth into two or more pieces.

Can A Crown Help Me Avoid A Root Canal?

A tooth crown may be the best way to prevent tooth loss or root canal treatment. Don’t wait until it hurts. Your dentist has seen these problems thousands of times and is giving you advice based on his experience.

Crowns can be made of a variety of materials. The most conservative approach to restoring a tooth with a crown may be an adhesive bonded porcelain material. These types of crowns often don’t require the whole tooth to be affected.

When a crown tooth is prepared or shaped it’s a little like a haircut. The tooth is trimmed, grinding a little off the top and all the sides to make room for the best material your dentist has chosen to use to restore your tooth.

Crowns Are Expensive, But They Can Still Save You Money

Your dentist may recommend a crown on a painless tooth that looks like it’s on a downhill slide towards a massive fracture. Yes, it is a little expensive.

But, by not delaying, you could avoid a crack that exposes the nerve, that leads to a root canal, that eventually fails and requires your tooth be extracted. Then you still have the expenses involved with tooth replacement on top of that.

I’ve seen it all too often where delays just continue to cost more and more. Stay ahead of the game and don’t wait for pain. Follow your dentist’s advice.

Your holistic or biological dentist can give you specific advice on your current dental condition. Give him a call today.