A dental crown is a sort of cap that goes over your tooth to protect it. Crowns are used in several different circumstances, including: to hold together a severely decayed tooth, to make cosmetic improvements to a poor-looking tooth, and to anchor a dental bridge. Dental crowns are available in several different types. Some circumstances call for a specific type of crown, while in other cases the decision is largely up to you. You and your dentist will work together to select the right crown for each situation.

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Stainless Steel

Children with tooth decay are often given prefabricated stainless steel crowns, and the teeth are prepared to fit them. The reason for this is that baby teeth will fall out, taking the stainless steel crowns with them, and be replaced by healthy adult teeth. Rather than putting children and their parents through the time, effort, and expense of permanent crowns, stainless steel crowns are an excellent inexpensive temporary choice. In our office we never use stainless steel crowns on permanent teeth as they simply do not fit well enough for long term wear. They can cause severe gum infections and bone loss when used on adult teeth.

Gold and Other Metals

Metal crowns are available in alloys of gold, palladium, and base metals. Gold crowns hold up well over time, and are unlikely to break or chip. This makes them an excellent choice for the back teeth, which are subjected to the forces of chewing. They are also a great solution for people with a high bite strength and those who grind or clench their teeth. The obvious gold color makes them unappealing for front teeth in most cases, although some people like the distinctive look.


This type of crown combines the aesthetics of pure porcelain with the functionality of a metal crown. They can be color-matched to the adjacent teeth, providing a natural look, while the metal under-structure provides strength and durability. However, the porcelain overlay can chip or crack, and this type of crown does more damage to the surrounding teeth than an all-metal crown. In addition, the metal sometimes shows through the porcelain slightly, often appearing as a dark line at the gums. This type of crown was very popular in the past but have fallen out of favor to the newer all porcelain crowns.

All-Porcelain Crowns

All-porcelain crowns provide the best color matching of all the crown types, and do not run the risk of a dark line showing through the porcelain. This makes them an excellent choice for the front teeth. They are also a smart choice for people who are allergic to metal.

All-porcelain crowns are slightly more prone to damage than gold crowns, however we routinely place all porcelain crowns on posterior teeth and seldom have any issues with fracturing. In addition, the newer porcelain used today does not wear the enamel on the opposing teeth as the older porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns did.

Milled Crowns

A new type of porcelain crown is made using computer-aided design. These milled crowns have a massive advantage in that they do not require impressions or multiple visits. They are made in as little as an hour and a half on-site while you relax, allowing you to leave your dental appointment with the finished tooth.

Milled crowns have similar strength and integrity to lab-created crowns, and can be used in any circumstance where a laboratory porcelain crown is called for. If aesthetics are very important, for example a front tooth, you will likely prefer a crown created in the lab, as a human artist can perform numerous techniques to make the crown look more natural. For back teeth and other situations in which aesthetics are less important milled crowns are an excellent choice.

Your dentist will advise you of your options and provide a professional recommendation for the type of dental crown that is best for your individual circumstances. Ultimately, however, the decision is up to you. Most people choose their crown based on a combination of functionality, aesthetics, and budget, in tandem with their dentist’s recommendations.

Family Dental Care of Bellevue provides quality dental care to patients and their families. Call us today at 425-643-5778 to see how we can help improve your smile.

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