In spite of your best efforts to maintain good dental care, a tooth can get broken or lost. You could fall and hit your jaw on something, or you could bite into the wrong thing and discover that the tooth is more fragile than you thought. Various gum diseases, illnesses and dental decay can also result in a tooth being damaged.
When this happens, your dentist may present you with a choice between a dental crown and a dental implant. Here we break down the differences between them and the pros and cons of each.
What is a dental crown?
A dental crown is a “hard hat” that is placed over a broken tooth. It restores the appearance of the individual’s teeth, improves contacts between teeth so less food gets caught between, and it protects the underlying tooth from further damage. Crowns are often recommended when the tooth is too badly damaged to be salvageable, but not so damaged that it needs to be removed.
For example, a tooth that has had a root canal or a large filling, or a tooth that has broken or chipped as a result of an accident, might be a candidate for a crown.
How is the procedure done?
Dental crown procedures are usually done over the course of two visits. During the first visit, the dentist shapes the damaged tooth to ensure that the crown will fit comfortably over it. An impression or digital scan is taken of the teeth – including the newly shaped tooth – so that the new crown can be custom-made to fit your dental profile. A temporary crown is placed over the damaged tooth to see you through until the final crown is ready.
During the second visit, the temporary crown is removed, and the permanent one is put in place. The dentist ensures that the crown fits comfortably, that it matches your bite, and that it is the right colour. If it is, the crown is secured with dental cement. If the teeth – including the crown – are properly taken care of, the crown can last for up to ten years, or hopefully much longer.
What is a dental implant?
Instead of using the remains of a damaged tooth as its base, a dental implant uses a small titanium screw that grows cellular connection with the jawbone. This is covered with a prosthetic tooth that looks and feels like a regular tooth.
A dental implant can only be placed in the tooth it is replacing is entirely gone. If remnants of the tooth are still there, these have to be removed to make way for the implant.
How is the procedure done?
Before the implant is placed, any remains of the broken tooth are removed. An incision is made in the gum to expose the jawbone, and the titanium implant is screwed into place. The gums are closed over the implant, with the help of sutures if needed.
The implant is left alone for several months, to give it a chance to become securely attached to the jawbone. When the dentist is satisfied that the implant has set, you will undergo a series of appointments during which the dentist will take digital scans of your teeth and the implant site, so that the prosthetic tooth can be custom-made.
The final step is the placement of the prosthetic. A dental implant takes longer and requires more appointments than a crown, but if it is taken care of, you may never have to replace it.
Dental implants are more expensive than crowns. Whether either procedure is an option, many dental insurance companies will only cover the less expensive option.
From start to finish, it can take up to a year before the dental implant procedure is complete. An implant requires at least two invasive procedures, each with a recovery time of a day or so.
Dental implants may not be an option for you if you have certain medical conditions, or if your jawbone does not have enough bone to support an implant. In almost all cases though bone can e b grown and reformed to accept an implant
Dentistry is not a one-size-fits-all profession. No dentist worth their salt will recommend any dental procedure without a thorough examination to determine what is right for you. Whether you opt for a dental crown or a dental implant, your dentist should be explaining the procedure to you, talking to you about the risks and benefits, and clearly answering your questions and concerns.