Dental Crowns (Dental Caps)

  • Medical Author:
    Steven B. Horne, DDS

    Dr. Steve Horne began his career at Brigham Young University obtaining his BA in English. He earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2007 from the University of Southern California where his pursuit for academic excellence landed him on the Dean's List. He was recognized for his superior clinical skills and invited to help teach other dental students in courses on restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, and tooth anatomy. During dental school, he provided dental care for underserved populations of Los Angeles and Orange County, Mexico, and Costa Rica with AYUDA. Following dental school, Dr. Horne entered active duty with the U.S. Army and practiced dentistry at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for four years. During this time, he was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and received multiple Army Achievement Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, and served as Company Commander. Dr. Horne currently practices full time at Torrey Pines Dental Arts in La Jolla, California, as a general dentist. Dr. Horne is a member of the American Dental Association, the California Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Horne is married to his wife, Christy, and they have a chocolate Labrador named Roscoe.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Shocking Diseases of the Mouth

Quick GuideCosmetic Dentistry Before and After Photos

Cosmetic Dentistry Before and After Photos

What is a dental crown?

  • The anatomy of a tooth can be divided into two basic parts -- the root and the crown.
  • In a person with healthy gums and bone, the root of the tooth is covered by the gums and bone.
  • The part of the tooth that is visible in the mouth, above the gum line on lower teeth and below the gum line on upper teeth, is called the clinical crown.
  • A cemented restoration that partially or completely covers the outside of the clinical crown is referred to as a dental crown or cap.

Other relevant terms

Crown preparation: This is the design of the tooth after it has been shaved down to allow room for a crown. The preparation design depends on the material that the crown will be made from, previous fillings, fractures, and root canal therapy performed on the tooth while trying to maintain enough tooth structure for the crown to adhere onto.

Margin: This is the edge of the crown that meets the prepared surface of the tooth. This needs to be smooth with no gaps or ledges.

Cusps: These are the raised or pointy parts of a crown that are the primary tools for tearing and chewing food. When a cusp has been damaged from a cavity or fracture, the tooth needs a crown to prevent further damage.

Partial crown/onlay: This is a crown that only covers some of the cusps of the tooth, but not all of them. This restoration is chosen as a conservative measure to preserve as much tooth structure as possible. When conditions allow, this is the preferred type of crown restoration.

Dental veneer: Porcelain veneers are partial crowns that cover only the front and biting edge of teeth. These all-ceramic restorations are usually placed on front teeth to change the color or shape of teeth or add symmetry and balance to a smile. Since they are sometimes placed on crooked teeth, treatment with veneers has sometimes been referred to as "instant orthodontics."

Temporary/provisional: This is a temporary crown that is placed on the tooth while waiting for the final crown to be made by the dental lab. Temporary crowns shouldn't be left on a tooth for very long because they are made of weak materials and cemented with weak cement that doesn't seal the tooth for very long. Occasionally, a temporary crown will purposely be left on for a prolonged period of time by the dentist to make sure it becomes free of pain or other symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/3/2016

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