Try as we might to protect them, sometimes little teeth need a bit of help. It’s one thing to add a crown to a damaged adult tooth, but do children’s primary teeth really need them?
The answer is “yes,” but first let’s learn more about crowns.
What Are Dental Crowns?
When a tooth is damaged beyond what a simple filling can fix, we often prefer to restore the tooth with a crown. A crown is simply a “cap” that artificially returns the tooth to its normal shape and size.
There are several reasons that we might decide a crown is the best way to go:
- A large cavity as a result of tooth decay is the most common reason to have a crown placed. Small cavities are repaired with fillings, but if the area is too large, we’ll need to use a crown instead.
- A damaged tooth resulting from a fracture or other injury can be repaired with a crown. A crown will fully strengthen and restore the tooth.
- If the patient has had a root canal, a crown will protect the restored tooth.
- A missing tooth might necessitate a bridge between the surrounding teeth to preserve spacing. Those adjacent teeth need to be crowned to support the bridge
Types of Dental Crowns
Not all dental crowns are the same. Depending on a patient’s preference and needs, there are different materials available. The best material for the job might vary due to the structure of the tooth and appearance-based needs. All materials have their own benefits and drawbacks.
Alloy Dental Crowns
Metal alloys can be tough and usually last indefinitely. These are best used for teeth than need to be strong, such as the molars in the back of the mouth. Metal alloys can be made with gold, nickel, chromium, and palladium.
Ceramic Dental Crowns
When the front teeth need to be capped, the optimal material is usually ceramic, as the dentist can easily match the ceramic to the color of the adjacent teeth. When a child chips a tooth, we typically choose ceramic to repair it.
Porcelain Fused to Metal Dental Crowns
A great compromise between the strength of metal alloys and the color of ceramic dental crowns is porcelain fused to metal. Porcelain forms a strong bond is formed to a metal core, meeting the patient’s need for both strength and aesthetics. This type of crown can be used for both front and back teeth.
Stainless Steel Dental Crowns
Steel is the optimal material for temporary crowns on permanent teeth or for children who need crowns on their primary teeth. The material is strong and easy to work with, and the dentist can make the crown in a single visit. This protects the tooth from further decay, which is a much better option for baby teeth rather than pulling them.
Why We Prefer to Crown Primary Teeth Rather Than Pulling Them
A lot of parents wonder why we don’t just pull out teeth that are badly decayed, rather than going through the process of restoring them with a crown. After all, their primary teeth are just going to fall out anyway, so what’s the point?
The answer is simple: it’s an investment in a child’s future health. As young jaws develop, spaces left by teeth that were pulled prematurely can result in serious issues down the road. Without the baby teeth in place as the jawbone grows, children are bound to run into spacing issues as their adult teeth come in. This could mean braces and other expensive treatment when they are older.
Crowning a primary tooth, rather than simply pulling it, not only provides a functional tooth until it naturally comes out but also preserves the proper spacing for permanent teeth. As stated above, we usually go for a simple steel crown for primary teeth unless it’s a tooth up front and center.
How to Prevent Your Child From Needing a Crown
While crowns are a valuable restorative process, it’s best to avoid ever needing them to begin with. Here are a few things you can do to protect your children’s teeth from damage or decay that may lead to needing a crown.
- Brush thoroughly. Of course, we recommend brushing and flossing regularly. With children, we often see a lack of attention to the molars. Even children who brush well pay more attention to the front teeth than the hard-to-see molars. This leads to a lot of decayed back teeth.
- Wear a mouthguard. If your child plays a sport where they risk impact (football or baseball, for instance), they should wear a mouthguard. Ask us how we can help with custom athletic mouthguards.
Treat dental issues promptly. By treating dental decay or damage to the tooth’s surface early, we can utilize more conservative treatments to repair the tooth. Taking care of a minor case of tooth decay sooner can prevent the need for a root canal or a crown later.