Dental crowns are deluxe fillings that cover the entire tooth like a cap. They are used to repair teeth that are either broken or have too much filling-to-tooth ratio to be considered strong enough to chew with. But although your crown is essentially stronger than the damaged tooth it is replacing, it is not stronger than a healthy tooth, and if a healthy tooth can break, so can a crown.
Breaking a crown can be a startling experience, especially if you didn’t feel any discomfort prior to its breaking. There are a few common reasons that crowns may break. And even if you haven’t broken a crown yet, knowing these risks may help you prevent a broken crown in the future.
Teeth Grinding: Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is a frequent problem, and many people aren’t even aware they're doing. Though people grind their teeth for different reasons (misaligned bite, stress, strenuous physical activity, and even in their sleep), teeth grinding almost always has the same outcome: damaged teeth. Unfortunately, it is just as easy to cause cracks and chips in your natural teeth from teeth grinding as it is to crack your crown. If you find yourself grinding your teeth, speak to your dentist about getting a custom-fit mouth guard to take some of the pressure off your teeth. If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth at night but aren’t sure, some signs to look out for are headaches, stiff or sore jaw, and worn or cracked teeth.
Crunchy Foods: Much like grinding, crunching on hard foods like chips, hard candies or ice can cause your crown to weaken and eventually crack. Remember, your crowns are meant to repair your teeth, but they aren’t as strong as real, healthy teeth. They may look and feel great, but they should still be treated as gently as possible. Limit your consumption of crunchy foods, and avoid chewing them with your crowns when possible. If you frequently chew ice or hard candies, stop! For the sake of both your natural and repaired teeth, limit this habit as much as possible.
Age: Much like other fillings, crowns get old, too. The average crown lasts about 15 years, but many can last much longer with proper care. Still, don’t expect them to last forever. Chances are, they will need to be replaced eventually, even if you take perfect care of them.
Improper Fit: If your crown is misaligned with the rest of your teeth, or if it simply isn’t attached properly or on all the way, it can cause damage to your crown and your natural teeth. If your crown is even slightly higher than the rest of your teeth, it will bear the brunt of your bite when you chew or grind your teeth. If your crown is on improperly, the misalignment can cause it to rub against other teeth or even the tooth it’s supposed to be protecting. If your crown seems too high or is still causing you discomfort months after it was placed, contact Dr. Abelar to see if it needs adjusting.
Improper Materials: Different materials can be used to make crowns. If your dentist uses inferior or improper materials, it could be weaker from the start. Your dentist should know which type of material is best based on the tooth your crown will be placed on, but it is possible that an inexperienced dentist may make the wrong call and place a crown that isn’t as durable on a tooth that requires a heavy-duty material. Yes, even dentists make mistakes sometimes!
If you have a broken crown, or if you have any questions or concerns about your intact crowns or oral health, please give Dr. Abelar’s office a call at 858-866-9692.