Will a Dental Crown Fix Tooth Decay Permanently?
Treating Tooth Decay With Dental Crowns
Tooth decay is a big problem for adults as well as children. It’s the most common oral health issue treated by dentists, but also one of the most preventable. Thankfully, tooth decay responds well to treatment, even in cases of extensive decay requiring a dental crown.
Recovering from tooth decay is fairly straightforward for most patients. Your dentist will give you guidance on how to improve your oral hygiene at home, offer advice on how to implement a smile-friendly diet, and directly treat the affected tooth to remove the decay.
Tooth-colored dental fillings are often used to repair simple cavities or dental caries, but sometimes that isn’t enough to protect the tooth. In these cases, your dentist will skip the filling and move forward with a dental crown instead, sometimes with preliminary treatment like root canal therapy.
The use of dental crowns often leads patients to wonder, “Will this crown permanently stop my tooth decay?” The answer is a bit more complicated than yes or no.
Let’s take a closer look at tooth decay, why and when dental crowns are used to treat it, and what protection you can reasonably expect from a crown.
What does tooth decay do to teeth?
Tooth decay damages tooth enamel and can eventually cause teeth to break, crack, or need an extraction. It can also trigger or exacerbate other oral health issues, like chronic halitosis, bad breath, and bruxism.
What you might not know is that tooth decay doesn’t happen suddenly. Rather, it progresses over a series of phases until a dentist intervenes and treats the tooth.
The majority of tooth decay begins on the surface of the tooth. First, enamel demineralization occurs, which is a reversible stage when treated with fluoride. As demineralization continues, the acids produced by bacteria eventually eat into the enamel. This causes the classic cavity to form. At this point, your dentist will likely use a filling to repair the damage after the decay is removed.
If enamel decay or a cavity isn’t treated, the acids continue to eat into the tooth enamel, eventually reaching the dentin layer of the tooth. Dentin is very soft in comparison to enamel and bacteria can rapidly damage the tooth at this stage. Sometimes a filling may be used to treat the tooth, but if enough enamel and dentin are damaged, your dentist will use a crown.
The pulp of the tooth is located behind the dentin layer. If dentin decay continues to progress, it will reach this pulp layer. When this happens, you’ll often need root canal therapy coupled with a dental crown. Past this point, your tooth can become abscessed and infected. If the damage is severe enough, a root canal may not be possible and you’ll need to have the tooth removed altogether.
Why are dental crowns used in tooth decay treatment?
So, when will a dentist recommend a dental crown instead of a filling? It depends on the stage of decay present and how much enamel damage has already occurred. Dental crowns are used to protect weakened teeth that have experienced extensive structural damage or for abscessed teeth that will need a root canal.
An experienced dentist will evaluate the tooth and recommend the most minimally invasive treatment. This means your dentist won’t recommend a dental crown when a filling would be suitable. If your dentist recommends a dental crown, rest assured it’s because it’s necessary to save your tooth.
Cavities and tooth decay can look very deceptive to the naked eye. Your cavity may not look very big when you check in the mirror, but under the surface, the issue could be much larger. Your dentist will be able to show you how much decay is present in the tooth after they take X-rays. They’ll also explain why your tooth needs a dental crown rather than a filling.
How do dental crowns protect teeth in the long run?
Dental crowns save teeth from extraction by providing them with structural support after tooth enamel has been lost or after the tooth has received root canal therapy. They envelop the tooth with a durable material, such as zirconia or gold, providing protection for 10 years or more with proper care.
However, dental crowns won’t necessarily stop future tooth decay from occurring.
To put it simply, a dental crown will permanently “fix” the active decay your tooth is currently suffering from. The dental crown itself can’t develop decay since it’s made of impervious material, but it’s still possible for decay to occur where the gums meet the bottom of the dental crown.
In this space, there will be a very small amount of natural tooth, hidden by the gums, that isn’t covered by the crown. If your oral hygiene isn’t maintained with a healthy diet and great brushing and flossing habits, or if you develop gum disease that pulls the gums away from the tooth, decay could occur in this small gap.
Beautiful, Long-Lasting Dental Crowns in Wilson, NC
The key to a long-lasting, beautiful, and effective dental crown is to find a skilled dentist. Dixon, Boles & Associates is a dedicated team of dental health professionals providing complete dental care services to individuals and families in Wilson, NC. Our team offers advanced, ultra-realistic zirconia dental crowns as well as the option for gold crowns for molars. You can schedule your next appointment by calling our office or requesting a visit online.