By: Dr. Lahiru Chandraweera

March 03, 2024

How Dental Crowns and Root Canals Work

Many people prioritise maintaining their natural teeth. With severely decayed or damaged teeth, root canal therapy and dental crowns are common treatments that can help accomplish this. Despite their popularity, misconceptions and a lack of understanding can make them seem more intimidating than they truly are.

Dental crowns and root canals are effective in addressing tooth decay, damage, and loss. While different in approach, they often work together to restore a tooth’s structure and function.

In this blog post, we aim to shed light on these procedures and highlight their importance in maintaining dental health. The information provided will help alleviate any concerns and empower you to make choices about your dental health.

Summary of the Content

  • Dental crowns and root canals help preserve dental health and enhance smiles.
  • Crowns protect weakened teeth, restore functionality, and improve aesthetics. They are suitable for teeth damaged by decay, injury, or after a root canal.
  • Root canal therapy addresses infected or inflamed tooth pulp, relieving pain and preventing unnecessary tooth extraction.
  • Combining crowns and root canals is often necessary to preserve severely decayed or injured teeth.
  • The combination of root canals and dental crowns offers benefits. These include preserving natural teeth, preventing further damage, and providing long-term oral health.
  • Costs vary based on the complexity of the case, materials used, and geographical location.
  • Post-treatment care involves regular oral hygiene, avoiding hard foods, and attending follow-up appointments for long-term results.

Understanding Dental Crowns and Root Canals

Dental crowns and root canals stand at the forefront of efforts to preserve teeth and enhance oral aesthetics.

  • Dental Crowns
    A dental crown procedure is done to provide a protective encasement for a weak tooth. This is whether caused by decay, injury or after undergoing a root canal treatment. They are designed to encapsulate the outer layer of the tooth above the gum line. Thus, restoring its shape, size, strength, and appearance.

    Crowns can be made from various materials, including porcelain, ceramic, metal, or a combination of these. Each of these offers benefits in terms of durability and cosmetic appeal.
  • Root canal therapy
    This is a routine treatment for pulp inflammation or an infected tooth. It involves extracting the diseased pulp, cleaning and disinfecting the canal of the tooth, and then filling and sealing it.

    Contrary to common belief, root canal therapy is a pain-managed procedure that significantly relieves toothache caused by pulp infection. The dental crown procedure often follows as post-root canal treatment. This is done to protect the tooth from fracture and restore its function and appearance.

Both dental crowns and root canals play crucial roles in tooth restoration and health preservation. By understanding the significance and function of these dental procedures, patients can approach their treatment with confidence.

The Role of Dental Crowns

Crowns are tailored to match your natural tooth colour, shade, shape, and size. They serve a protective and restorative role, and offer a cosmetic treatment that can enhance one’s dental appearance. At their core, dental crowns are designed to:

  • Protect Weakened Teeth:
    Crowns provide a sturdy encasement, shielding the entire tooth surface from external forces that could cause further harm.
  • Restore Functionality:
    By encapsulating the tooth, a crown restores its original shape and size, allowing for normal function.
  • Improve Aesthetics:
    Custom shade crowns can be crafted from different types of crown materials that closely mimic the natural appearance of teeth. This offers to address cosmetic concerns and enhance your smile’s aesthetic appearance.

Real-life examples where crowns are commonly used include:

  • Following a root canal treatment:
    To protect the managed tooth and restore its functionality.
  • For cracked tooth syndrome:
    To hold the tooth together and prevent further cracking.
  • Replacing large fillings:
    When there’s not enough tooth structure remaining to support a filling, the dental crown provides durability and protection to the tooth.
  • Cosmetic enhancement:
    To encase severely discoloured or misshapen teeth, providing an enhanced, yet natural-looking smile.

Dental crown procedure plays a role in restorative dentistry. It serves multiple functions to maintain the longevity and aesthetics of your smile.

The Root Canal Procedure Unveiled

The mere mention of a root canal can send shivers down many spines. It’s time to shed light on this misunderstood procedure and reveal its true nature as a pain-managed, tooth-preserving treatment. The root canal process involves several key steps:

  • Diagnosis and X-ray:
    Your dentist will take a dental X-ray to assess the extent of damage to the tooth’s pulp. It also checks for signs of infection in the surrounding bone.
  • Local anaesthesia:
    To provide comfort, a local anaesthetic is administered to numb the area around the tooth, making the procedure painless.
  • Pulpectomy:
    An opening is made in the crown of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. The infected or damaged pulp is then carefully extracted from the pulp chamber and root canals.
  • Cleaning and shaping:
    The root canal and pulp chamber are cleaned and shaped, preparing them for filling. This step cleans the canal of bacteria and debris to lower the risk of infection.
  • Filling the root canal:
    The cleaned and shaped canals are filled with a biocompatible material, usually gutta-percha, to seal them off.
  • Sealing the tooth:
    The opening in the tooth is sealed with a restorative filling to prevent contamination.

Adding a crown (recommended): After root canal therapy, the tooth is considered dead, making it susceptible to fracture as it becomes brittle over time. In many cases, a dental crown is recommended to restore the tooth’s shape, appearance, and functionality, offering further protection.

When Dental Crowns and Root Canals Collide

There are scenarios where dental crowns and root canals work together to restore a tooth’s health and function. Situations necessitating both procedures usually involve:

  • Severe Decay or Injury:
    When a tooth suffers from extensive decay or is significantly injured, the pulp inside the tooth can become infected or inflamed. A root canal is performed to remove the damaged pulp and alleviate pain. Afterwards, a dental crown is placed over the tooth to restore its strength, shape, and appearance.
  • Repeated Dental Procedures:
    Teeth that have undergone multiple fillings or dental procedures can become weak and prone to fracture. A root canal may be needed if the tooth’s pulp is at risk. This is followed by the placement of a crown to provide structural support and protection.
  • Large Fillings:
    Over time, large fillings may fail or cause further damage to the tooth structure. If this compromises the tooth’s pulp, a root canal will be necessary. A crown is then used to encase and protect the tooth.

Dental professionals often highlight the effectiveness of combining these treatments for irreversible pulp infection. For instance, a root canal can address the pain and infection. On the other hand, a crown allows the tooth to remain functional and aesthetic for years.

Why Is Dental Crown Important After Root Canal Therapy

Combining dental crowns and root canals offers a holistic approach to tooth restoration. The advantages of this combination include:

  • Preserving Natural Teeth:
    Root canal therapy helps prevent tooth extraction by getting rid of the inflamed or infected pulp. At the same time, a crown provides the necessary protection and strength to keep the tooth functional.
  • Preventing Further Damage:
    A crown acts as a shield for the vulnerable tooth post-root canal treatment.
  • Enhancing Aesthetics:
    Dental crowns are designed to mimic the appearance of natural teeth. After a root canal, a crown can restore the tooth’s natural shape, colour, and appearance.
  • Improving Long-term Oral Health:
    This combination supports overall oral health by addressing the root cause of tooth pain and protecting the tooth against future issues. It also reduces the need for more invasive dental procedures in the future.
  • Cost-effectiveness:
    Investing in a root canal and crown can prevent more costly dental procedures in the future. It is cost-effective for long-term dental health and stability.

The integration of dental crowns and root canals symbolises modern dentistry’s commitment to preserving the original tooth and enhancing oral health. By understanding the benefits of this combination, patients can approach their dental care with optimism.

Dental Crowns vs. Root Canals

It is vital to know whether only a dental crown is necessary over a root canal. Both procedures serve distinct functions in tooth restoration and preservation, each with unique indications and advantages. Here’s a comparative look to help clarify when each treatment is appropriate:

AspectDental CrownRoot Canal
Primary PurposeTo protect and restore the form and function of a viable tooth that is decayed, damaged, or cosmetically unsatisfactory. To extract infected or inflamed pulp from within a tooth undergoing irreversible inflammation, thereby relieving pain and providing protection against further infection.
  • Large fillings that have failed or are at risk of failing
  • Cracked, broken, or worn teeth
  • After root canal treatment to protect the tooth
  • Severe toothache during chewing or application of pressure, indicating infection
  • Prolonged sensitivity/pain in response to temperature extremes
  • Discolouration or darkening of the tooth
  • Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums
Procedure OverviewInvolves reshaping the tooth, taking an impression, and fitting a crown made from metal, porcelain, or another material.It involves getting rid of the damaged pulp and cleaning and disinfecting the inner areas of the tooth. The core filling material is then inserted into the prepared tooth, and it is sealed.
Recovery and CarePatients may experience some sensitivity and should temporarily avoid hard foods (e.g., ice cubes and hard candy). Regular oral hygiene is crucial.Post-procedure discomfort is common but manageable with over-the-counter pain relief. Oral hygiene is important to prevent further issues. Post-treatment, there should be no pain or discomfort because the tooth is considered dead. 
Longevity and OutcomesWith proper care, crowns can last five to 15 years or more, depending on the material. It significantly extends the life of a tooth.A successful root canal can prevent the need for extraction and replacement. When done thoroughly and a crown is placed, root canal treated teeth can last up to 20 years

Practical Tips for Patients:

  • Consult with your dentist:
    They can assess the condition of your tooth and recommend the most suitable treatment.
  • Consider long-term outcomes:
    Both treatments are investments in your oral health. Weigh the benefits and potential future needs.
  • Follow post-treatment care instructions:
    Adhering to your dentist’s care instructions is key to recovery and longevity of the treatment.

While each treatment addresses different issues, both are essential components of comprehensive dental care that preserves natural teeth.

What to Expect During Recovery

Recovering from dental treatments like crowns and root canals can determine the long-term success of the procedure. Here’s what you can expect and how to navigate the recovery from dental crowns and root canal process effectively:

  • Immediately After the Procedure:
    It’s normal to experience some sensitivity and discomfort. Your dentist may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers to manage any pain.
  • Activity Level:
    Avoid strenuous activities for the first 24 hours to reduce bleeding and swelling. Although rare, bleeding and swelling is still possible.
  • Eating and Drinking:
    Stick to soft foods (eggs, yoghurt, etc.) and avoid very hot or cold beverages for the first few days. Chewing on the opposite side of your mouth from the treatment can also help minimise discomfort.
  • Oral Hygiene:
    Continue with your regular oral hygiene routine, but be gentle around the addressed area. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid flossing around the new crown or the root canal site for a few days.
  • Follow-Up Appointments:
    Attend any scheduled follow-up appointments so your dentist can monitor your recovery.
  • Watching for Complications:
    While rare, complications can occur. Contact your dentist if you experience severe pain and swelling or if the crown feels loose or uncomfortable.

Recovery times can vary, but most patients find they can return to their normal activities within a day or two. During this time, it’s essential to listen to your body and communicate with your dentist about any concerns.

The Cost Consideration

Navigating the financial aspects of dental treatments is an essential step in planning your oral health care. According to the latest Dental Fee Survey, the price range for root canal therapy can span from $2,000 to $4,800 per tooth, depending on the complexity and which tooth is affected. Dental crown cost, meanwhile, can range from \$1,700 to \$4,700 per crown, influenced by the material choice and the required preparatory work.

The cost of these procedures is influenced by several factors, including:

  • Complexity of the Case:
    More complex situations may require additional time, materials, or professional intervention, which can affect the overall cost.
  • Materials Used:
    The blend of materials chosen for a dental crown varies in cost. Materials can range from plain metal crowns to metal alloys, acrylic resin crowns, porcelain crowns, and all-ceramic crowns. Each has different price points.
  • Geographical Location:
    Dental treatment costs can vary by region due to differences in the cost of living and operating costs.
  • Health Fund Assistance:
    Health funds may pay for a portion of these treatments, but assistance levels and out-of-pocket expenses can vary widely.

Understanding the cost implications of dental crowns and root canals allows for better planning and preparation. It’s recommended to discuss cost considerations with your dentist, who can provide a detailed estimate based on your specific situation.

Maintaining Your Smile's Radiance

After undergoing dental procedures such as crowns or root canals, the journey towards a radiant smile doesn’t end. It enters a new phase of diligent care and maintenance.

To achieve longevity in your dental work and the health of your smile, consider the following guidance:

  • Oral Hygiene:
    Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. This routine helps prevent plaque buildup and protects against decay.
  • Regular Dental Check-ups:
    Schedule dentist visits every six months or as recommended. These check-ups are crucial for monitoring the condition of your dental work and addressing any potential issues early on.
  • Avoid Hard Foods:
    Chewing on hard foods or ice can damage dental crowns, just as it can natural teeth. Opt for softer foods (eggs, yoghurt, mashed potato, etc.) and cut down on sweets. This is to prevent decay and maintain the durability of your dental work.
  • Use of Mouthguards:
    If you grind your teeth at night or engage in sports, consider using a mouthguard. This helps protect both natural tooth core and dental restorations from unnecessary pressure or injury.
  • Quit Smoking:
    Smoking can stain teeth and dental crowns and pose a risk to overall oral health. Quitting can help maintain the appearance and health of your smile.
  • Limit Staining Foods and Beverages:
    Coffee, tea, red wine, and certain other foods and beverages can stain teeth and crowns. Moderation, along with regular cleaning, is key to minimising these effects.

Embracing these practices for crowns can help your teeth to remain strong, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. Taking proactive steps to maintain your dental health pays off in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Being aware of what dental crowns and root canals entail makes it possible to make decisions regarding your dental health. While these procedures represent a significant investment, they are crucial for preserving natural teeth, preventing further dental issues, and maintaining overall oral health.

If you’re considering a dental crown or root canal, we are here to guide you through your restoration options. Our dedicated team is committed to providing root canal and dental crown services that suit your needs.

We invite you to contact us and schedule a consultation appointment. At Hills Family Dental Centre Kalamunda, your smile is our priority. Let us help you maintain its radiance. Contact us today to book your consultation.