By: Dr. Lahiru Chandraweera

April 04, 2024

The Science of Tooth Decay Prevention with Dental Crowns

A radiant smile can light up a room, but maintaining that brilliance often involves more than just regular brushing and flossing. For many, the battle against tooth decay is continuous, and the journey to a healthier mouth can feel daunting. It’s not just about the aesthetic appeal; it’s about preserving one’s oral health and maintaining the longevity of natural teeth.

Understanding the role that dental crowns can play in preventing decay and protecting vulnerable teeth is essential. In this article, we will talk about the science behind tooth decay prevention with dental crowns, offering insights and guidance on how to maintain your oral hygiene and keep that smile glowing.

Summary of the Content

  • Dental decay results from bacteria-filled plaque, which is significantly influenced by sugary foods, insufficient fluoride, poor dental hygiene, dry mouth, or failing restorations.
  • Dental crowns protect and strengthen weakened teeth and need proper maintenance for durability.
  • Crown materials include porcelain, metal, gold, PFM, and zirconia.
  • Crowns safeguard enamel, help distribute bite forces, and are made from acid-resistant materials.
  • Tooth decay prevention with dental crowns involves regular cleaning, careful flossing, avoiding hard or sticky foods, using protective mouthguards, and having regular dental check-ups.
  • Getting a crown entails a dental examination, tooth reshaping, impression taking, fitting a temporary crown, and placing the final crown.
  • Risks of dental crowns include tooth sensitivity, chipping, loosening, infection, and material allergies. These potential risks can be mitigated by using desensitising products, avoiding hard foods, maintaining good oral hygiene and selecting appropriate materials.
  • A healthy diet reduces the risk of decay and, along with regular cleanings and mindful eating, preserves the crown and oral health.

What Causes Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is a common yet preventable condition that affects individuals of all ages. Despite its prevalence, many are unaware of its root causes. Gaining insight into these can empower one to take control of their oral health and maintain a beautiful, natural-looking smile.

Here are the main factors contributing to tooth decay:

  • Plaque formation:
    Plaque is a sticky film composed mainly of bacteria. When plaque accumulates on the teeth, especially near the gum line and in between teeth, it sets the stage for tooth decay. The bacteria in plaque use sugars from our diet to produce acids that attack the tooth enamel.
  • Sugar intake:
    Each sip of soda or a bite of candy provides a feast for the bacteria in your mouth. Bacteria produce acid that wears away the enamel, which can lead to extensive decay. This is why oral hygiene practices that limit sugar exposure are critical to preserving the integrity of your natural teeth.
  • Inadequate fluoride:
    Fluoride, a mineral that helps prevent decay and can reverse the earliest stages of tooth damage, is often lacking in many people’s oral care routines. Without sufficient fluoride, teeth become more susceptible to decay.
  • Poor oral hygiene habits:
    Consistent and effective brushing and flossing are necessary to remove plaque and reduce the likelihood of tartar formation, which can further harbour bacteria. Oral health upkeep is a cornerstone of preventing decay and maintaining the longevity of dental restorations, like dental crowns.
  • Dry mouth:
    Saliva acts as a natural rinse for the mouth, washing away food particles and neutralising harmful acids. A reduction of saliva, known as dry mouth, can result from certain medications or conditions and increase the risk of decay.
  • Worn dental restorations:
    Over time, your custom-made restorations, like fillings, can wear down or become damaged, creating crevices where bacteria can accumulate and promote decay. Regular dental visits allow for the monitoring and maintenance of these restorations in order for them to continue to serve their protective roles.

The Role of Dental Crowns in Oral Health

When teeth become weakened or damaged, it’s crucial to find a long-term restoration that protects against further decay. Dental crowns emerge as a viable option for preserving oral health and preventing future dental complications.

  • Encasing vulnerable teeth.
    Dental crowns are custom-fitted tooth-shaped caps that encase the entire tooth. They safeguard decayed or damaged teeth or teeth that have undergone root canal treatment by preventing bacteria and plaque from attacking the exposed areas.
  • Strengthening teeth.
    Teeth weakened by decay or with large dental fillings can fracture or break. Crowns provide the necessary reinforcement to withstand the pressure of chewing, thus maintaining the integrity of the tooth’s structure and preventing further decay or extensive damage.
  • Material matters.
    The selection of dental crown materials can play a crucial role in preventing decay. Porcelain, ceramic, and metal crowns offer different benefits in terms of durability, biocompatibility, and resistance to wear. For instance, porcelain crowns not only replicate the aesthetics of natural teeth but are also highly resistant to staining and can withstand the challenges of oral health maintenance.
  • Bridging gaps.
    Crowns are also an integral part of dental bridges, which replace tooth loss. By filling the gap, bridges helpdistribute bite forces properly and prevent remaining teeth from shifting, which could lead to bite misalignment and areas prone to accumulation of plaque.
  • Supporting dental implant therapy.
    In cases of severely decayed teeth that can no longer be saved, crowns are used atop dental implants to restore functionality and aesthetics. This combination not only manages the issue of missing teeth but also promotes oral health by preventing jawbone degradation and maintaining the alignment of surrounding teeth.
  • Maintaining longevity with proper care.
    While dental crowns are an effective protective measure, their longevity relies heavily on proper dental crown maintenance. Adhering to a regimen of thorough brushing, flossing, and routine dental check-ups can extend the life of a crown and contribute significantly to overall oral hygiene.

Dental crowns play a vital role in managing oral health by acting as a physical barrier and providing strength to posterior teeth. With proper dental crown treatment and a commitment to good oral hygiene habits, the risk of tooth decay can be significantly reduced, resulting in a healthier smile for a longer time.

Types of Dental Crowns

With the diverse range of materials available, each type of crown offers unique benefits and levels of protection against decay. Understanding the differences can help determine which option is suited for your needs.

  • Porcelain crowns:
    Known for their natural appearance, porcelain crowns closely resemble the colour and light-reflecting qualities of natural teeth. Beyond cosmetic reasons, the non-porous surface of porcelain makes these crowns highly resistant to stain and decay, offering great protection for the tooth.
  • Metal crowns:
    Often comprised of various metal alloys, these crowns are one of the most durable options available. They withstand biting and chewing forces well and tend to last longer than other types. Metal crowns are less likely to chip or break, which means they can offer a continuous protective barrier against tooth decay.
  • Porcelain- fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns:
    These crowns offer the strength of a metal substructure with the natural look of porcelain on top. However, the edge of the metal core can sometimes be visible at the gum line. While they provide a strong seal against decay, the aesthetics can be compromised if the porcelain breaks, exposing the metal beneath.
  • Zirconia crowns:
    Zirconia crowns are known for their exceptional strength and longevity. They are virtually indestructible, providing superior defence against decay, and are well-tolerated by the body, making them a suitable choice for maintaining oral health.

Each of these dental crown materials has specific indications based on the patient’s oral health status, aesthetic requirements, and functional needs. The effectiveness of these crowns in preventing decay also relies on dental crown maintenance. Regular check-ups with a qualified dentist and a good oral hygiene routine are essential to maximising the protective benefits of any dental crown.

How Dental Crowns Protect Teeth

Maintaining the integrity of tooth enamel is paramount for oral health, and dental crowns play a pivotal role in this process. Tooth enamel, being the outermost layer of the tooth, needs reinforcement when weakened. Dental crowns provide reliable protection by covering the natural tooth, thereby adding a protective outer layer. This not only strengthens the tooth but also seals it from bacterial plaque that leads to decay.

In addition, dental crowns are highly efficient at distributing the force of biting and chewing across the tooth, preventing any area from being overburdened, which can lead to cracks or chips in the enamel. Dental crown materials like porcelain and various metal alloys—are selected for their durability and resistance to the acidic byproducts of oral bacteria, offering protection against tooth erosion.

To prevent the tooth from being exposed to potential damage, all crowns are custom-fitted to cover the tooth they are designed to protect. Nonetheless, protecting your dental crowns must be combined with consistent oral hygiene and regular visits for cleanings and check-ups so that the crown and the underlying tooth structure remain in good condition.

Through this proactive approach combining dental innovation and personal care, dental crowns act as a primary treatment option to cover and secure a tooth’s health, playing a crucial role in the overall maintenance of oral health.

Proper Maintenance for Dental Crowns

Preserving the function and appearance of dental crowns is important for preventing decay. After its effective placement, a dental crown demands a commitment to maintenance, which, in turn, fortifies dental health.

To preserve the strength and longevity of your dental crowns, adhere to these dental crown maintenance tips:

  • Embrace daily oral hygiene:
    Just like regular teeth, dental crowns require regular brushing and flossing. Use a non-abrasive toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush to clean around the crown, focusing on the area where the gum meets the crown to remove plaque build-up.
  • Floss with care:
    Flossing is crucial, but with crowns, it’s about technique. Slide the floss gently down to the gum line and use a clean section of floss for each tooth to avoid trapping bacteria and food particles.
  • Avoid hard and sticky foods:
    While dental crowns are durable, they are not indestructible. Foods that are excessively hard or sticky can dislodge or damage crowns. Maintain a balanced diet that supports overall dental health.
  • Protect your crowns:
    If you grind your teeth at night, consider a night guard. For those engaging in sports, a mouthguard is a must. These protective appliances can prevent your crowns from bearing the brunt of excessive force.
  • Regular dental check-ups:
    Regular dental check-ups are an essential part of your dental care regimen. These allow a dental professional to inspect the integrity of your crowns and address any early signs of daily wear or dental issues before they escalate.
  • Mindful of habits:
    Be conscious of any habits that might damage your crowns, like biting nails or chewing on pens. Such practices can exert unexpected pressure on your crowns, leading to severe damage.

Proper dental crown maintenance can help prevent tooth decay and ensure their longevity. When properly maintained, they contribute to the longevity of your appealing smile and overall dental health.

What to Expect When Getting a Dental Crown

A dental crown treatment requires at least two visits. Understanding the dental procedure can equip you with knowledge about what lies ahead in your quest to improve your oral health. Here’s a rundown of the process:

  • Initial examination:
    During your initial visit, your dentist will assess the tooth that needs a crown. This might involve taking X-rays to check the roots of the tooth and surrounding bone and to determine the extent of the damage.
  • Tooth preparation:
    To make room for the crown, the dentist files down and reshapes the tooth. This involves removing the decayed portions of the tooth and then reshaping the remaining natural tooth structure for a proper fit. A local anaesthetic is used to prevent any discomfort during the procedure.
  • Creating a tooth impression:
    After the tooth is reshaped, the dentist takes an impression of the prepared tooth, as well as the opposing jaw, to check that the crown will fit into your bite. These impressions can be taken using a dental putty or a digital scanner.
  • Fitting a temporary crown:
    A temporary crown will then be placed over the prepared tooth. This provisional crown will protect your tooth while your final crown is being fabricated, offering protection and functionality.
  • Crown fabrication:
    The impressions are sent to a dental laboratory where your final crown is fabricated. They can be made from various dental crown materials such as porcelain, ceramics, metal alloys, or composite resin.
  • Final crown placement:
    When your final crown is ready (usually after a few weeks), you will have a second appointment. The dentist removes the temporary crown and fits the final one. Before cementing the crown in place, the dentist checks the fit and colour and makes any necessary adjustments.

It is important to note that these procedures can vary slightly depending on the specific practices of the dental clinic and the patient’s individual needs. It’s always recommended to consult with your dentist to get accurate and personalised information regarding dental crown procedures.

Potential Risks and How to Mitigate Them

When choosing to get a dental crown, it is important to consider the potential risks associated with it. Understanding these risks will help in their effective management. Possible complications could include:

  • Discomfort or sensitivity:
    It’s common to experience discomfort or sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures after a dental crown procedure. This sensitivity is usually a response of the tooth nerve to the treatment and changes in the mouth. While this can be disconcerting, it often subsides over time as the tooth adapts to the new crown.

    Over-the-counter pain medications can help alleviate discomfort. If sensitivity persists, your dentist may recommend a desensitising toothpaste. In the initial days following the procedure, it’s also wise to avoid very hot or cold foods and drinks.
  • Chipped crown:
    Dental crowns made of porcelain can sometimes chip if they’re exposed to too much pressure from biting or grinding. This can be of particular concern for individuals who have bruxism (teeth grinding).

    To prevent chipping, patients should avoid hard and chewy foods and not use their teeth to bite down on hard objects like ice, hard candy, or popcorn kernels. Those with bruxism may require a nightguard to protect both the crown and neighbouring teeth.
  • Loose or detached crown:
    The bond between a crown and the underlying tooth structure can weaken, leading to a loose crown or even one that falls out. This could be due to various factors, including decay of the underlying tooth.

    Consistent and thorough oral hygiene is crucial. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and regular use of antimicrobial mouthwash can prevent decay and reduce the likelihood of crown loosening. Regular dental check-ups are vital for early detection and intervention if the crown begins to loosen.
  • Infection:
    An infection can occur if bacteria breach the seal of the crown or if there is decay at the margins. This risk underscores the importance of a crown that fits accurately.

    Consistent and meticulous oral hygiene, including the use of interdental brushes or water flossers to clean around the crown margins, is imperative. Regular dental cleanings and check-ups will also help identify early signs of infection that can be addressed promptly.
  • Allergic reaction:
    A minimal number of patients might have an allergic reaction to the metals used in some crowns, such as nickel or chromium. It’s essential to inform your dentist about any known metal allergies before selecting a crown material. There are many alternative materials available, such as porcelain or zirconia, which reduce the risk of metal-related allergic reactions.

By having open and thorough communication with your experienced dentist, choosing the suitable materials for your dental crown, and adhering to good dental hygiene practices, these risks can be minimised.

The Role of Diet in Tooth Decay and Dental Crown Effectiveness

Understanding the connection between diet, the development of tooth decay, and the efficacy of dental crowns is crucial for maintaining optimal dental health. Foods high in sugars and acids can increase the risk of extensive tooth decay by providing fuel for the bacteria in plaque. This bacterial plaque can lead to decay not only on natural teeth but also around the edges of dental crowns, potentially compromising their effectiveness.

Conversely, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water can enhance oral hygiene, which is pivotal in preserving both the integrity of natural teeth and the function of dental crowns. By choosing foods that support oral health, individuals with dental crowns can significantly boost their restoration’s longevity and function, keeping both natural and crowned teeth in good condition. Tooth decay prevention with dental crowns is, therefore, deeply intertwined with dietary choices.

Regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings are also essential, as they help maintain crown stability and prevent dental plaque build-up, which diet alone may not control. Moreover, being mindful of the texture and hardness of foods can prevent mechanical damage to crowns, allowing them to remain a durable option for maintaining a healthy smile.

Final Thoughts

As we have explored, dental crowns stand out as a significant protective measure against tooth decay, offering a combination of strength, durability, and aesthetics. With a proper understanding of the causes of decay, the value of crowns in preserving oral health becomes abundantly clear. Whether opting for metal crowns known for their resilience or porcelain crowns that provide a natural look, the material choices cater to diverse needs and preferences.

Taking care of crowns is similar to taking care of natural teeth, involving routine hygiene practices and regular dental consultations. The role of diet should not be underestimated, as it plays a pivotal role in extending the life and efficacy of both our natural teeth and dental crowns. It’s about creating a balanced relationship between our lifestyle choices and dental investments.

Ultimately, dental crowns are not just about enhancing our smiles; they’re about embracing a preventative approach to oral health. With proper care and attention, crowns can be a useful tool for achieving a healthier, more confident smile. They remind us that with a bit of knowledge and exemplary practices, the integrity of our oral health is very much in our own hands.

When it comes to selecting a partner in your oral health journey, Hills Family Dental Centre Kalamunda is here to help. Our team is dedicated to providing you with the compassionate care you need to make the most of your dental crown investment. Don’t wait for the beautiful smile you deserve. Book your appointment with us today and take the first step towards a lasting, radiant smile. Call us or visit our website to secure your path to optimal oral health.