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What is the difference between Dental Crowns and Root Canals

What is the difference between Dental Crowns and Root Canals


So, you’ve made an appointment with your dentist because you have a tooth that’s been bothering you. It doesn’t hurt all the time, but every once in a while, it starts to throb. One of your friends even said, “I bet you need a root canal or a crown.” She seemed to know a lot about what she was saying, but she isn’t a dentist and you’ve never needed any dental work, so you have no idea what she’s talking about. The good news is, until you see the dentist, you don’t know what or if something actually needs to be fixed. The truth is, there are times when a crown is enough. A crown is used to cover a damaged, discolored, or disfigured tooth. Getting a dental crown can either be a necessary, or a cosmetic procedure. However, a root canal is only done when there is a problem, and it is always followed by the placement of a crown to protect the tooth. So, for peace of mind, here’s a little information on the difference between a dental crown and a root canal.

 

 

Tooth Anatomy

 

To understand a root canal, or a crown, it helps if you know a little about the anatomy of a tooth. There are several layers in every tooth. The outermost, and hardest, part of the tooth is the enamel. It is what you see when someone smiles. The next layer under the enamel is the dentin. It is softer and has millions of narrow tubes that lead directly to the center of the tooth, where the pulp is found. This is where all the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth are located. The pulp is very important as your teeth are growing and developing, because that is how nourishment gets in. However, after the tooth is fully developed, the pulp is not as important because other structures can provide nourishment to the adult tooth. What is important to note is that decay can affect all layers of the tooth, but the deeper inside the decay is, the more serious the problem.

 

What is a Root Canal?

 

A root canal is a procedure that is necessary when someone has inflammation or an infection in the pulp of the tooth. There are a number of ways that this can occur. If you have deep decay, bacteria can get into the pulp and cause an infection. It can also occur if you have a chip that provides an opening into the tooth. Repeated dental work, or injury from trauma can also cause the problems that will require a root canal. If any of these things are left untreated, you will not only experience severe pain, but may develop an abscess or even more serious infections.

 

To determine if you need a root canal, your dentist will examine you and take X-rays. Next, he or she will numb the area with local anesthetic injections. To get to the pulp, your dentist will have to make an opening in the crown (outside) of your tooth, through the enamel and dentin and into the pulp. This will be done with a small drill. Next, the dentist will use tiny instruments, or files, to clean out all of the damaged or infected pulp from inside of your tooth.  At this point, he or she might put an antibacterial solution inside the tooth to minimize the risk of further infection. Finally, your tooth will get a temporary filling and will then be sealed. The entire procedure may take one or two visits, and with modern dentistry, you should feel minimal or no discomfort. Your tooth may be a little sensitive for a few days but if you have any true pain, you should notify your dentist immediately. So, now that your tooth has been rid of any disease or infection, you will be ready to get a crown in a few weeks.

 

What is a Dental Crown?

 

A dental crown is a permanently attached structure that is cemented to your tooth, or to a dental implant. It is used to completely cover either a damaged tooth, or a tooth that is misshapen or discolored. The reason it is used after a root canal is to protect the tooth and give it strength and stability.

 

Before a crown can be cemented into your mouth, your existing tooth has to be reduced in size with a drill, by your dentist. Next, an impression of soft material will be taken, so that a mold can be made. The products of the impression will then be sent to a lab so that your crown can be made to your dentist’s specifications. A temporary crown will be placed on your tooth until the permanent crown can be put in. Once the final crown is received, and cemented into your mouth, it is permanent and can only be removed by a dentist. This is also true of crowns placed on dental implants, except of course; the implant will not need to be reduced in size before the crown is placed.

 

There are a number of different materials that a crown can be made of, depending on the location and the function of the crown. For instance, porcelain or ceramic crowns can be made to match the color of your teeth, are the most natural looking, and are best for your front teeth. However, gold and other metals are stronger than porcelain and may be recommended for teeth that are in the back and not in plain view.  It is important to discuss your options and the recommendations by your dentist before the crown is ordered from the lab.

 

So, while a root canal is only used to address a dental problem, crowns are not only indicated to cover the tooth that has had the root canal, but are also used for a number of other reasons. They can be used to cover a tooth that has been weakened from a fracture, or one that has a very large filling in it. It can also be used to cover a dental implant or to fix a fractured tooth. Sometimes a bridge (which is a complete replacement of a missing tooth) can be attached to a crown to fill a gap. And finally, crowns can be used for purely cosmetic reasons, to improve the look of a misshapen or a discolored tooth.

 

How Should I Care for My Teeth After Either Procedure?

 

Crowns should last a lifetime, although sometimes the cement loosens and it may come out. If this happens, you can try to reattach the crown using toothpaste or denture glue, but notify your dentist immediately so that it can be reattached with permanent cement as soon as possible.  Care for your crown should include good oral hygiene to prevent decay, and the avoidance of eating hard foods like ice or candy that might cause damage.

 

After a root canal, good oral hygiene is key to keeping your teeth and gums healthy and strong. This includes brushing and flossing daily, as well as cleanings and dental check-ups at least every six-months. The root canal should fix the problem at hand, but that doesn’t mean you will never have an issue with that tooth again. In some cases, root canals may need to be repeated, even years later. So, see your dentist regularly and contact them if you experience any new pain.

 

If you have any more questions about root canals or crowns, or have any other dental concerns, please call El Portal Dental at (209) 385-1479 today, or schedule an appointment online. We are here to meet all of your dental needs.