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Broken crown or tooth? Here’s everything you need to know.

A broken tooth or loose or damaged crown can be a painful and concerning experience; fixing things fast is of the utmost importance—both to alleviate discomfort and prevent further damage. In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about crowns, including their implications for broken teeth and what to do if a crown is broken, loose, or comes off. 

What is a crown?

A crown, also known as a dental cap, is a tooth-shaped covering that is placed over a damaged or decayed tooth to restore its shape, size, strength, and appearance. Made from various materials, crowns provide a durable and natural-looking solution for protecting and strengthening weakened teeth.

What types of crowns are there?

Metal crowns

You may remember the gold and silver crowns of days gone by. Today, dentists may still use metal crowns when cost is a concern, or on baby teeth where long-term aesthetics won’t pose an issue. Some people even prefer the look of a gold crown! Regardless of the reason, metal crowns are the most durable, and can withstand heavy biting forces without chipping or breaking. For this reason, they’ll last longer than other crowns. They also require the most minimal tooth removal, so they preserve more of the natural tooth. On the other hand, metal crowns are highly visible and may not be preferred for front teeth due to their metallic appearance. Metal crowns also conduct heat and cold more, which can cause sensitivity.

Ceramic/porcelain crowns & PMF

More common today, ceramic and porcelain crowns can be color-matched to blend seamlessly with natural teeth, providing a highly aesthetic result. While metal crowns can cause sensitivity and even metal allergy reactions, porcelain is much more biocompatible and well-tolerated by the gums. Keep in mind that porcelain crowns may wear down more quickly and can be susceptible to chipping or breaking. A middle ground is a porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crown, which combines the strength of metal with the natural appearance of porcelain on the outside, offering a balance between durability and aesthetics. While they do provide a more natural appearance than metal, they may reveal a dark line (the metal under the porcelain) at the gumline.

Zirconia crowns

Zirconia is a type of crystallized oxide material that is prized for its hardness and resistance to fracture. Zirconia crowns can be milled from solid blocks using CAD/CAM technology, resulting in precise and custom-fit restorations. Zirconia crowns usually offer the best aesthetics because the material has natural translucency and color-matching capabilities. Not surprisingly, zirconia crowns tend to be more expensive than other types of crowns due to the high-quality materials and precision manufacturing processes involved.

When do you need a crown?

Crowns can be used in a variety of dental cases. But as a general rule, crowns are used to protect and/or amend the natural tooth when a filling or other dental restoration won’t suffice. Crowns could also be the second course of action in a case where a tooth has been previously filled or restored to the point where there isn’t enough natural tooth left for additional restorations. A dentist might recommend a crown: 

  • In the event of large amounts of decay that cannot be restored with fillings
  • To protect a weakened tooth from further damage due to decay, fracture, or large fillings
  • To restore a cracked, broken, or severely worn-down tooth
  • To cover and support a tooth after a root canal treatment
  • To improve the appearance of a misshapen or discolored tooth

If you suspect you have a cavity, decay, or other tooth damage, it’s important to see your dentist right away. He or she may be able to address the issues with more minimal restoration. Waiting, however, can result in further damage, which usually necessitates a crown. 

Can you put a crown on a broken tooth?

Yes, a crown can be placed on a broken tooth to restore its function and appearance. In fact, crowning a broken tooth is often the preferred treatment option to strengthen the tooth and prevent further damage. In most cases, a broken or cracked tooth cannot be fixed with a filling alone, but by covering the broken tooth with a crown, your dentist will preserve the tooth and prevent further damage. 

Risks of not fixing a broken or cracked tooth with a crown

Busy lifestyles often result in deferred healthcare. But ignoring a broken or cracked tooth can have consequences:

  • Dangerous infections. Cracked, decaying, or broken teeth can lead to infections that can become serious—even deadly—if untreated. These infections are often incredibly painful and can necessitate root canals, which add to your dental expenses, appointments, and recovery time. 
  • Lost teeth. Crowns are designed to help you preserve your real teeth in the long term or indefinitely. But letting a cracked, decaying, or broken tooth go untreated can make it harder or impossible to treat with a crown—ultimately resulting in the need for extraction. Once a tooth is extracted, your only options are to live with the gap or get a much more costly dental implant. 
  • Compromised oral health and functionality. Crowns aren’t just about aesthetics; they’ll contribute to your overall oral health and function. Waiting to treat a sick tooth, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect. 

How crown treatments work

As dental technology has evolved, it’s easier, faster, and less painful than ever to get a crown! In fact, many dentists with the right equipment in-house can start and finish a crown in the same appointment. The process of placing a crown typically involves the following steps:

  • Tooth Preparation: Your dentist will prepare the broken tooth by removing any decayed or damaged portions and shaping it to accommodate the crown. Your dentist will numb the area so you’ll feel no pain. 
  • Impressions: Your dentist then takes impressions or scans of the prepared tooth and surrounding teeth to create a custom-made crown that fits perfectly.
  • Crown manufacturing: Using the scan or impression, your dentist will order your crown from an outside lab or manufacture the crown in-house using a milling or 3D printing machine. 
  • Crown placement. In the case that your crown is manufactured off-site, your dentist will place a temporary crown over the prepared tooth while the permanent crown is being fabricated. You’ll likely return in 1-2 weeks to have the permanent crown placed. If your dentist makes the crown in-house, you can sit back, relax, and wait the 30-45 minutes it takes for milling or 3D printing. Your dentist will then place the crown on your tooth, test for fit/bite, make any necessary adjustments, and cement the crown onto the prepared tooth.

How much does a crown cost?

The cost of a dental crown can vary depending on factors such as the material used, the complexity of the case, and the geographic location of the dental practice. On average, the cost of a crown ranges from $800 to $3,000 per tooth and will depend largely on insurance benefits. 

What if my crown breaks, becomes loose, or falls off?

Unfortunately, broken, loose, or damaged crowns happen. What’s more, modern crowns (porcelain, ceramic, or zirconia) are not designed to last forever and should be replaced every 10-15 years. Not doing so can result in further damage to the tooth and necessitate an extraction.  

Several factors can contribute to a broken or loose crown, including:

  • Tooth decay or recurrent decay underneath the crown
  • Trauma or injury to the tooth
  • Grinding or clenching of the teeth
  • Poor oral hygiene habits
  • Eating sticky or hard foods
  • Normal wear and tear over time

Sometimes, a broken or loose crown might not be immediately noticeable. Or, the tooth underneath the crown or at the gumline may be decaying. Some signs that there could be an issue include:

  • Pain or sensitivity when biting or chewing
  • Discomfort or irritation around the gumline
  • Visible damage or cracks in the crown
  • Noticeable changes in the fit or feel of the crown
  • Movement or mobility of the crown

What to do If a crown breaks or comes off

If your crown breaks or comes loose, don’t panic! Take the following steps:

  1. Remove the crown: If the crown has completely come off, carefully remove it from your mouth and clean it with water. You can set it aside to bring to your dentist. 
  2. Contact your dentist: If your crown comes off or you notice damage, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to have the crown evaluated and repaired or replaced. 
  3. Protect the tooth: If they can’t see you right away, your dentist may recommend an over-the-counter adhesive to keep the crown in place and avoid further damage to the tooth. Either way, it’s best to avoid chewing on the affected tooth and try to keep it clean to prevent further damage or infection.

Ignoring a broken crown can lead to the same complications previously mentioned—including infections and loss of the tooth. 

A broken crown tooth can be a source of discomfort and concern, but prompt action and proper dental care can help address the issue effectively. Modern crown treatments are fast, easy, and pain-free, and there are often payment options available to make costs more manageable. 

Smiley Dental is highly experienced in crown placement and replacement. Contact us today to schedule an appointment! 


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