Dental crowns are used for a variety of reasons in dentistry. Crowns are most often used on teeth that are badly broken down or missing a lot of tooth structure. Other times, crowns are used to improve the appearance of a tooth (in a similar was as veneers are), prevent further wear of tooth structure, or because of teeth that were misshapen when they erupted. Crowns are also used on top of dental implants to restore chewing ability and function.
If I need a crown, do I have to have a root canal first?
No, not necessarily. Occasionally, teeth that need a crown will require a root canal to be performed on the tooth because of extensive decay, infection present, or a lack of space to place a crown without damaging the tooth’s nerves and vessels. Often, a crown can be placed and a root canal will not be needed on the tooth.
As a general rule, once a root canal is performed on any teeth that are in the back of the mouth (premolars or molars), that tooth will need a crown on it in order to prevent it from breaking. On teeth that are located in the front part of the mouth, having a root canal does not necessarily indicate that a crown is required; rather, the need for a crown is determined on a case by case basis depending on the amount of tooth structure remaining and the risk of fracture in the future.
Some crowns are made out of porcelain (most esthetic), some out of metal (most often a gold containing alloy), and some out of a mix of metal and porcelain (most common). Dr. Farmer can show you examples of each of these kinds of crowns and discuss the advantages of each one with you depending on your specific circumstances.