Temporary crown: Uses, procedure, and cost

Temporary dental crowns protect teeth or dental implants while a permanent crown is in production.

Dentists recommend crowns in several circumstances. For example, individuals may require a crown if they need a large cavity filling but do not have enough of a tooth remaining to keep a filling in place. Someone may also require a crown over a tooth to prevent further damage after a root canal.

In some cases, dental crowns are necessary for cosmetic purposes.

In this article, we examine temporary dental crowns and their uses. We also look at how dental offices make them, how long they last, and how to care for them.

A temporary crown is a tooth-shaped cap that a dentist fixes to a damaged tooth or crown before putting a permanent crown in place. The crown acts as a barrier against bacteria and secures the tooth that the permanent crown will cap.

Without a temporary crown, the tooth may shift, meaning that the permanent crown will not fit properly.

Temporary crowns are similar to natural teeth in shape and size. They cover any visible remaining portion of the affected teeth.

Although they are strong enough to withstand a regular bite, temporary crowns are made from less substantial materials than permanent dental crowns, so they may crack more easily. Dentists do not cement them into place as securely as permanent crowns.

Most dentists can make temporary crowns, which they form from acrylics or stainless steel in their offices. However, dental laboratories produce permanent crowns using materials such as:

  • metals
  • porcelain
  • porcelain fused to metal
  • resin
  • ceramic

Dental crown caps cover the remains of teeth that have sustained damage from excessive decay, root canal treatment, or other repairs. They may protect single or multiple teeth.

Dentists may take impressions or models of the person’s original tooth for the crown. They may also use computer imaging technology to determine the crown’s appropriate size and shape. They will then send the impressions or imaging to a dental laboratory.

Laboratories usually take a few weeks to make permanent dental crowns for teeth.

Research indicates that the development and placement of a temporary crown plays an important role in long-term outcomes for permanent dental crowns.

The functions of a temporary crown include:

  • safeguarding the remnants of the natural tooth or implant site and the gums
  • preventing potential tooth and gum sensitivity
  • keeping the appropriate spacing between the teeth
  • supporting chewing and esthetics

The functions of a permanent crown include:

  • covering an implant or the remnants of severely decayed, discolored, or misshapen teeth
  • protecting the weakened tooth
  • supporting dental bridges if replacing missing teeth

Usually, a person has a temporary dental crown for 2–3 weeks. However, some people may need a temporary crown for more than 3 weeks if they have undergone extensive dental work or received an implant.

It can take several months for the bone surrounding an implant to heal after the procedure. Dentists will not place a permanent crown over an implant until the bone has healed.

Permanent dental crowns should last at least 5–15 years, with their lifespan depending on a person’s oral hygiene and regular wear and tear. A dentist will determine when a crown needs replacing.

Similar to permanent crowns, temporary crowns simulate the shape, color, and size of a person’s natural teeth.

Temporary crowns do not usually match a person’s natural teeth as accurately as permanent crowns. More specifically, the materials that dentists use to make temporary crowns do not always closely match the color of natural teeth.

Temporary crowns are not as sturdy as natural teeth or permanent dental crowns. Dentists glue them to the jaw with temporary cement.

A person with a temporary crown should be able to chew normally. However, they will need to avoid certain foods to prevent damage to the crown.

People with a temporary crown can protect it by:

  • avoiding hard, tough, sticky foods, such as steak, candy, nuts, and uncooked vegetables
  • eating soft foods, such as pasta, eggs, rice, and soft fruits
  • minimizing sugary foods that could cause decay
  • steering clear of very hot and cold beverages that may aggravate exposed nerve endings and weaken the temporary cement that holds the crown in position

Specific foods to avoid may include:

  • hard bagels
  • steak
  • corn on the cob
  • popcorn
  • raw carrots
  • apples
  • nuts
  • caramel

An individual with a temporary crown should maintain a regular oral hygiene routine and make extra efforts to clean the surrounding area. This will help prevent bacteria from slipping between the crown and the gum line, causing the covered tooth to decay.

A good oral hygiene routine involves brushing the teeth at least twice each day and flossing the teeth at least once each day.

To avoid dislodging a temporary crown, a person should brush their teeth more gently around the temporary crown and use extra care when flossing around it.

Anyone who experiences discomfort around the temporary crown should call a dentist and schedule an appointment.

A person should contact a dentist for advice if a temporary dental crown detaches.

The dentist will reglue or replace the temporary crown as soon as possible to protect the tooth underneath and the surrounding gums.

Fitting a temporary crown may involve the dentist:

  • filing down the decayed or damaged tooth on the top and sides to make space for the temporary crown
  • removing any decay from underneath an old filling in the tooth
  • placing a composite core on the tooth if it has undergone a root canal and there is not enough tooth remaining
  • adding filling material to build a structure for the crown to cover or patch any holes in the remaining tooth
  • applying paste or putty to make an impression or mold of the tooth
  • making impressions of the teeth to help maintain the person’s bite
  • using the impressions of the upper and lower teeth to make a stone model of a person’s teeth
  • using a shade guide to identify the exact color needed for the permanent crown to match the surrounding teeth
  • making a temporary crown from acrylic or composite resin plastic using the impressions
  • using adhesive to attach the temporary crown to the filed tooth
  • sending the impressions to a dental laboratory that makes permanent crowns
  • scheduling a second appointment in 2–3 weeks to remove the temporary crown and cement the permanent crown in place

Fitting a temporary crown does not typically require an extensive recovery period. However, it may take several hours for the effects of any numbing medication to wear off.

If a person feels pain or discomfort once the temporary crown is in place, they should speak with a dentist as soon as possible.

The price of dental crowns and the procedures to implant them vary according to a person’s geographic location and the type of permanent crown they select. For example, full porcelain crowns cost more than porcelain crowns fused with metal.

Dental crowns often cost between $800 and $1,500, but they can be more expensive. Insurance does not usually cover the total cost of a crown.

Lower cost options include onlays and three-quarter crowns. These types of crowns do not fully cover the underlying tooth. They may be suitable for a person with a solid tooth structure that needs capping.

Temporary dental crowns protect teeth, dental implants, and gums from bacteria while people wait for their permanent crowns from a dental laboratory. The temporary crowns also prevent the tooth from moving before the permanent crowns arrive.

As dental offices make temporary dental crowns from less substantial materials than permanent dental crowns, they are more likely to crack or break. They are also more prone to falling out because dentists do not cement them into place as securely as permanent crowns.

A person usually requires a temporary dental crown for 2–3 weeks before the permanent crown arrives.

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