What’s the Best Material for a Dental Crown?

What should your dental crown be made out of

Choosing the Best Dental Crown Material for You

When it comes to making a major decision, most of us prefer to have at least a few options to choose from. Knowing we have a true choice is freeing and empowering, especially when it comes to our health! Even when a decision is difficult or requires research—perhaps especially then—having options helps us take control and allows us to find what’s best for us. After all, the right solution for one person isn’t always the right solution for someone else facing the same choice. 

If you need a dental crown, there are multiple materials you’ll hear about dentists using. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the pros and cons of different crown materials, but you don’t have to make this decision alone! We’re here to make sure you have access to all the information you need to feel fully informed before you move forward. To help you get started, here’s a guide on the pros and cons of several dental crown materials.

Purpose

When you need a dental crown, we always think first about the desired purpose. Crowns are used for both restorative and cosmetic dentistry. In restorative dentistry, crowns repair damage done by severe decay or injuries to a tooth. They’re placed on teeth after a root canal and are used to restore broken, majorly cracked, or worn-down teeth. In doing so, they revitalize and protect the health and function of the damaged tooth. 

The tooth’s appearance is also often restored, but this depends on the material that’s used to make the crown. Nowadays, many people choose a material that allows the crown to look natural, but that’s not the main goal of restorative dentistry. Aesthetics is, of course, important, but the dental crown material chosen will depend on the amount of tooth structure you have remaining, the vitality of the nerve, and whether or not the tooth is a molar. Molars naturally exert more force in chewing than the front teeth do.

In cosmetic dentistry, however, a dental crown is used solely to renew and restore the appearance of a tooth. They’re used to improve the appearance of teeth that are stained, slightly crooked, uneven, or irregularly shaped. Crowns used for cosmetic treatments may also improve your oral health along the way, but the main goal is to improve the aesthetics of your smile.

These different purposes will impact which dental crown material you may want your crown made from, so it’s wise to consider whether you’re getting a crown for restorative or cosmetic purposes. If you’re getting it for restorative purposes, how important is the cosmetic aspect of your restoration to you? 

The answer may be different for everyone and is also impacted by the details of your unique case, which is why choosing the right dental crown material requires such a nuanced approach. It’s a good idea to keep this in mind as you begin looking into different types of crowns, but don’t let it overwhelm you! Dr. Naik works with this regularly and will gladly explain everything to you. So feel free to ask any questions you may have.

Materials  

At River Walk Dental, we offer three main dental crown materials: e.max, zirconia, and gold. E.max and zirconia are both newer crown materials that are made using cutting-edge technology, so you may not have heard of them before. E.max is a glass-ceramic crown, while zirconia is a porcelain crown made from zirconium oxide, a naturally white metal related to titanium. 

In contrast, gold is a traditional crown material. Gold is a soft material on its own, so gold crowns are actually made using a blend of gold and other metals like copper, nickel, or chromium. These metals are added to strengthen it, but the main metal is still gold. Because of this, people with metal allergies are unlikely to react to gold crowns, but it’s wise to make sure beforehand. 

E.max, zirconia, and gold are all biocompatible, which means your body will recognize them as a part of it. This makes them ideal dental crown materials and reduces the likelihood that you’ll deal with issues like tooth sensitivity once your crown is placed.

Appearance

E.max and zirconia crowns are both white and can be tinted to match the color of your natural teeth. Out of the two, though, e.max crowns easily look the most natural. Since they’re glass-ceramic, they’re naturally slightly translucent. This might sound strange, but your natural teeth are slightly translucent too. We don’t register this consciously, but the fact that e.max crowns have this quality makes them look incredibly natural. Even if someone knows you have a dental crown, they likely won’t be able to tell the difference between an e.max crown and a natural tooth!

Zirconia crowns also match the appearance of your natural teeth relatively well, but it’s not flawless; they’re slightly less natural-looking than porcelain crowns. In contrast to both, gold crowns look exactly how you’d expect them to: gold. As a result, they stand out against your natural teeth. They’re not designed to blend in, so they’re easy to spot when you speak or laugh, even when they’re placed on back molars. This means that gold crowns aren’t the best choice if you want your crown to blend in with your natural teeth, but they do have other advantages.

Strength

When it comes to strength, all three of these crown materials are incredibly durable and long-lasting. To get the most out of any dental crown, though, you need to take good care of it. This means developing habits like a thorough at-home oral hygiene routine that includes flossing every day, scheduling a dental appointment every six months, and being kind to your teeth by not using them as tools. 

No matter what they’re made from, never use your restorations—or your natural teeth—to crack open nuts or open packaging. It’s also wise to address any issues you may have with clenching or grinding your teeth to prevent wear or damage to your crown and natural teeth alike.

Out of the three materials we offer, e.max is the weakest, though it’s still stronger than porcelain crowns. Since porcelain crowns are about as strong as your natural teeth, this makes e.max crowns pretty strong and durable, but it’s still important not to use them as tools and to address any existing issues with bruxism. These habits run the risk of chipping, cracking, or breaking your crown. If you take good care of an e.max crown, it’s durable and strong enough to last anywhere from a couple of decades to an entire lifetime.

Although zirconia crowns are considered porcelain, they’re made from metal and that shows in their strength. They’re just as strong and durable as metal crowns, but unlike metal crowns, they don’t expand and contract in response to hot or cold temperatures. This makes them even less likely to crack or loosen over time. 

Similarly, since gold metals are made of a combination of metals with strength in mind, they’re also very durable. It’s unusual for them to chip, break, or crack. With good care, zirconia and gold crowns both have the potential to last an entire lifetime.

Cost

The cost of your crown will vary based on which tooth it’s being placed on, so we can’t give you a solid estimate without seeing you for a consultation. That said, each material does have a slightly different cost bracket. E.max crowns are the most expensive of the three, with zirconia crowns falling slightly behind them and gold crowns taking the place of least expensive. This is largely because e.max and zirconia crowns are both cutting-edge dental materials with a wide range of benefits, including improved aesthetics over gold crowns. 

If you’re not sure which material you’d prefer or which one will fit into your budget, feel free to schedule a consultation with Dr. Naik at any time. We can provide you with a cost estimate for each material in your case, including how much your insurance is likely to cover.

Ideal Placement  

The unique strengths and weaknesses of each of these materials mean that they do have ideal placements and uses in your mouth. The natural appearance of e.max crowns makes them ideal for placement on front teeth. It’s here that you can make the most of their effortlessly natural appearance. They’re not the best choice for back teeth, however, because more pressure is exerted on those teeth while you chew, so it’s best to have a stronger, more durable crown there. Besides, a crown on your back teeth doesn’t need to blend in as flawlessly as e.max crowns because they’re usually only seen by other people in flashes. 

A stronger material like zirconia or gold is best for your back teeth. These materials are both strong and durable enough to withstand a lifetime of the increased force that chewing places them under. While gold is still noticeable on back teeth, zirconia can be tinted to match the shade of your other teeth so it can blend in well on your back teeth. No one will notice it’s there! Your choice between zirconia and gold will likely come down to your budget and how much you care about your crown’s visibility.

Schedule an appointment with your dentist today to determine which dental crown material is best for you!

It’s not always easy to choose between different crown materials, but it’s worth it to take the time to think ahead. After all, your dental crown will become a part of you, helping you function, stay healthy, and potentially reclaim confidence in your smile—all for decades to come! If you’d like to learn more about dental crowns and what might be right for you, feel free to schedule a consultation with Dr. Naik at any time.

River Walk Dental

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