I decided to begin with this topic because I have found much confusion both among dentists and the general public. I am going to limit my comments to permanent crowns. However, you can also ask me any questions about temporary crowns.

There are 3  general types of crowns: all metal, porcelain fused to metal, & all ceramic or porcelain. (All other types I consider temporary or long-term temporary.)  These crowns can be full crowns, covering the whole tooth, or partial crowns.  Let us discuss each of these types separately.

All Metal Crowns

which are made of  gold or other alloys have the following advantages

  1. Less tooth needs to be removed.
  2. Withstand biting and chewing forces best with the least force transmitted to those opposing teeth biting against them.
  3. Minimal tooth wear to opposing teeth.

The color is the main drawback and why these are usually suggested only for out of sight teeth.

Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns

can be made to more closely match the color of your existing teeth. However:

  1. The crown’s porcelain may chip or break off.
  2. The porcelain is harder against the opposing  acting more like a hammer and also causes more wear.
  3. More tooth has to be removed to allow for both the metal and the porcelain.
  4. Because of the metal lining, they quite often appear more opaque than the natural tooth.
  5. At the edge, especially if your gums recede, the metal can show through the porcelain appearing as a dark line.

These crowns are used for front and back teeth.

All Ceramic or all porcelain crowns

are the most aesthetic and provide the best color match. They are also the best choice for people with metal allergies.  But:

  1. They are typically not as strong as porcelain to metal crowns (However, improvements are being made all the time)
  2. They wear the teeth more than metal crowns but about the same as porcelain to metal.
  3. There are many types and the all have different properties in terms of strength, opacity, wear, and type of preparation.  Your dentist needs to know which will be best in your situation.

These are a great choice for front teeth but certain materials can be used for back teeth and even short span bridges (another discussion).

Please comment on this discussion of crown types.  Ask me any questions. Do you know the type of crown that you have in your mouth?

Depending upon your responses, I may follow this up with a more detailed discussion of all ceramic crowns.


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  2. Gordon P. Smith, DDS on 10.18.2009

    Thanks for your kind words.

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