When a filling reaches the end of its life, it's time to consider an alternative. Usually it's best to switch to a crown. Unlike a filling, a crown covers and protects a damaged tooth and can keep it from breaking.
We can usually restore small
cavities with fillings. However, when a large portion of your tooth has been
damaged by decay, we’ll need to remove a significant amount of the tooth in
order to remove all the decay. When a tooth loses much of its natural
structure, it also loses much of its support and strength. As a result, it can
easily fracture, or a portion of it can break away entirely.
After a lot of tooth structure has been lost, your alternatives are limited.
You can delay treatment, have the tooth extracted, try another filling
or have a crown put on the tooth. Whether tooth structure has been lost
due to breakage or cavities, if treatment is delayed, the problem just
After root canal treatment, the tooth is weak and brittle. It is weak because the center of the tooth was removed to get at the infected nerve; only the sides of the tooth are left for support. And it is more brittle because the nerve and blood supply are gone.
It takes two appointments to restore your tooth with a crown. That's because
a crown is custom-crafted in a dental laboratory to precisely fit your
tooth. To make the entire process comfortable for you, the first thing
your dentist will do is make the affected area thoroughly numb. Then any
decay is removed with the handpiece, and the tooth is shaped.
For the week or two that it takes the dental lab to fabricate your new crown, you'll have a temporary crown. At your next visit, the temporary crown is removed, and you'll try out your new crown. Your dentist will check the fit and your bite.
Before a cracked tooth breaks, it might hurt when you chew, or it might
be sensitive to hot or cold. Or it may feel just fine. To prevent the tooth
from breaking, the solution is a crown. It covers the crack and protects
and strengthens the tooth.
While it's true that a crown protects and strengthens a tooth, sometimes a
crowned tooth will get a cavity below the crown. Cavities never come through the
crown, but they can get started at the edge where the crown and tooth meet.
On rare occasions, temporary crowns come off. Call your dentist if this happens, and keep the temporary so it can be re-cemented. It's very important for the proper fit of your final restoration that temporaries stay in place. It's normal to experience some sensitivity to heat, cold and pressure after each appointment.