Metal Dental Crowns: Are They Right For You?

What's the best part of a metal dental crown? This is definitely its strength (and the resulting longevity of the crown). What's the worst part? It's undoubtedly the fact that a metal crown can't mimic the natural color of a tooth, meaning this type of dental restoration tends to look rather obvious. So why would a patient choose a metal crown over one of the more natural-looking alternatives?

Common Dental Crown Materials

These alternatives include acrylic, which is cost-effective, while also being the quickest type of crown to experience discoloration and deterioration. Porcelain is the most common material for a dental crown, offering durability and effectively matching the natural luminescence of dental enamel. These choices result in a dental crown that looks the most natural (particularly porcelain). But sometimes a dental crown is unlikely to be seen.

The Look of Metal Alloy Crowns

If your dentist is suggesting a metal crown, it will be a metal alloy. Nickel-chromium and chromium are standard choices, as is a gold alloy. Unless a patient specifically requests it, the metal won't have a noticeable luster. It won't be shiny, and the restoration will deliberately have a dull polish. These crowns are generally reserved for posterior teeth (the teeth towards the back of your dental arch). 

Posterior Teeth Are Less Conspicuous 

Since metal crowns are intended for a posterior tooth, they won't be conspicuous when smiling, talking, or eating. A posterior crown is positioned towards the back of your dental arch, so its appearance is less important. What's more important is its strength, as well as the state of the tooth it will cover.

Sustained Pressure

Because posterior teeth handle your dental heavy lifting (or more accurately, your heavy chewing), these teeth are under more sustained pressure than an anterior tooth (at the front of your mouth, used for gripping and tearing food). The strength of a metal crown can be extremely beneficial for a posterior tooth—especially a significantly deteriorated tooth.

Minimal Preparation

A tooth must be reshaped to be compatible with a crown. A small amount of surface enamel is removed to accommodate the crown, so the restored tooth isn't any bigger than its original size. Metal crowns offer considerable strength while remaining ultra-thin. This means less enamel must be removed than for a porcelain crown. This is extremely helpful for a posterior tooth with advanced decay. Only a tiny amount of the tooth's surface must be removed, so the tooth can keep its structural integrity.

If your dentist recommends a metal crown, it's due to the fact that it's the best material for the job. It might not be the most natural-looking choice, but with posterior teeth, it's more about function than esthetics.

For more information about dental crowns, contact a local dental office.