A dental crown is a tooth-shaped "cap" that encases a needy tooth so as to reinforce it, make it healthier, stronger and function optimally. Dental crowns fall under the category of restorative dentistry.
Dental crowns can be made of various materials, such as stainless steel, metals such as alloys of gold, nickel or chromium, porcelain-fused-to-metal, all-resin, all-ceramic or all-porcelain. Each material has its own pros and cons, so certain crowns may be more suitable for certain teeth and situations.
Metal crowns rarely chip or break, but their color means they are best restricted to back molars. Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns can be color-matched to teeth. Cracked, damaged, weakened, worn down, misshaped or severely discolored teeth are all potential candidates for dental crowns.
A dental crown may also be used to hold a dental bridge in place or to cover a dental implant. Depending on the dentistry needs of a patient, both a temporary or permanent crown might be necessary. The former can be made in a dentist's office, while the latter is made in a dental laboratory. Temporary crowns typically protect the teeth during the time a dental laboratory manufacturers the permanent crown. Some newer techniques and materials include custom milling dental crowns from small blocks of zirconia. Since zirconia crowns can generally be prepared so quickly, they reduce the chances of a temporary crown negatively influencing a weak tooth.