What are Dental Caps for Your Teeth?

Many of us find ourselves with teeth that are no longer structurally sound. Root canals, lost fillings, decay below a filling, chipping and cracking of the enamel are things that may lead to large scale defects in a tooth’s surface. Grinding of your teeth, an improper bite, age, fillings and tooth decay can all be contributing factors in the wearing down, cracking or breakage of your teeth. When the entire surface of the tooth is a problem, but the root system is intact, a cap might be appropriate for you. Dental caps cover the entire visible surface of your affected tooth and add strength, durability and stability.

Who is a Candidate for Dental Caps?

If you grind your teeth, have an improper bite, have fillings or tooth decay you have contributing factors to the wearing down, cracking or breakage of your teeth. Dental caps cover the entire visible surface of your affected tooth and add strength, durability and stability.

A cosmetic dentist will usually be able to identify problem areas in your mouth that might lead to tooth damage and a need for caps. Chewing patterns play a big role too. By selectively grinding the tips of your middle and back teeth (cusps) will alter your bite to reduce the stress on your at-risk teeth.

Tooth Cap Procedure

A cosmetic dentist will make an impression (mold) of your tooth and a dental laboratory will create the needed custom cap. You will typically leave the office with a temporary cap to wear while the permanent cap is being made – this takes about fourteen days. The permanent cap is then cemented onto your tooth. Typically, only two visits are required for this part of the procedure. Often, a preliminary restoration of your tooth may be needed before the permanent cap is actually placed. To stabilize your tooth, a filling must first be put in place prior to placing a cap to counter any loss of your original tooth structure.

It is important to discuss with your cosmetic dentist that the cement color used for your permanent cap will be the same as used for the temporary cap (try in paste). The color of the cement does affect the overall color of a porcelain cap, so this needs to be discussed well before your temporary cap is placed. In some cases your cosmetic dentist may choose to use a Flipper instead of a temporary cap. A Flipper is a false tooth to temporarily take the place of a missing tooth before the permanent crown is placed. A Flipper can be attached via either a wire or a plastic piece that fits in the roof of your mouth. Flippers are meant to be a temporary solution while awaiting the permanent cap.

Types of Tooth Caps

There are generally three types of caps – those made of gold, ceramic caps and ceramic-veneered gold caps. Gold and metal-ceramic caps are extremely durable and are normally used in molars, where the forces from chewing and grinding are most prevalent. Ceramic caps are used primarily for front teeth, since they can best resemble the natural tooth color and are more pleasing to the eye.

Types of Porcelain used with Dental Caps

There are basically two types of porcelain you’re likely to hear and read about most when researching dental caps and crowns- the felspathic and pressed ceramic porcelains. The felspathic type is the original method that has been around for 20 years. A Ceramist in a dental lab bakes porcelain onto tin foil and then heats it in an oven. The Ceramist is able to create tints and opaques inside the porcelain of the dental cap or crown to give the natural look we seek.

Pressed ceramic is created from a single ingot. The single ingot is milled in one piece to create the desired shape of the cap or crown. The stains and opaques are applied only to the surface of the porcelain to give a natural look for your new smile.

Resin and Porcelain Caps

The new reinforced resin or bonded all-porcelain type of cap has the nicest appearance. This cap can be made from pure ceramic or a new reinforced composite resin. It is almost indistinguishable from natural teeth. The new bonding technology involved provides an exceptional bond your tooth. It is metal-free, and thus satisfies the needs of patients with metal sensitivities. When correcting your back teeth with bonding, the cosmetic dentist will perform a tooth colored onlay. This type of procedure is used to correct only the parts of your tooth that are in need. This procedure is metal-free.

Caps Made of Gold

Gold caps are used when appearance is not a priority to you. The gold is extremely workable, making gold caps a more precise fit than any other type. While there exists a slight possibility of chipping with porcelain caps, gold caps provide no such possibility.

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Porcelain and Metal Caps

For a very natural appearance, porcelain fused to metal caps is the answer for you. However, they have a metal substructure and require an opaque below the porcelain, which can make the translucency of natural teeth difficult to match. Sometimes a darker line will be visible at the edge of the cap, near to your gum when your gum recedes with age.

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How much do dental caps cost?

Porcelain caps cost more because they are usually more time-consuming than gold caps. The relatively new reinforced resin or bonded all-porcelain type of caps cost more, and may exceed your insurance plan coverage for caps.

Usually, the price of dental caps increases with the number of in-office treatments required by the patient. Dental insurance does not typically cover all the costs of the dental cap procedure.

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Pros & Cons of Tooth Caps

Pros and Cons of Dental Caps Types

Dental caps in general add a good deal of strength to a weakened or worn tooth, and last ten to fifteen years. Depending on your habits and the condition of your gums, there may be some drawbacks for you. Your cosmetic dentist will advise which is best for you given several factors, such as how important appearance is to you. The following are the advantages and disadvantages of the most common types of caps.

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Gold Caps

Advantage: The preparation of your tooth for a gold cap is the simplest and least complicated preparation. There is minimal tooth structure removal with as much as possible of the healthy tooth structure remaining untouched. As porcelain is hard by comparison, it may cause wear on opposing teeth over the years where gold is not as likely to do this. Gold is also easier to place to the area where the tooth and cap meet for a better fit. Gold is also a healthier environment for the gum tissue.

Disadvantage: The biggest disadvantage to gold caps is cosmetic, unless it is being used in the back of your mouth.

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Porcelain Caps

Advantage: Porcelain caps or the new reinforced resin types are considered to be the most aesthetically pleasing, as it is so easily matched in color to your surrounding teeth.

Disadvantage: The thickness of the porcelain required for pleasing aesthetics also requires that more tooth structure is removed. Also, it is more difficult for your cosmetic dentist to get an ideal fit where your gum meets the cap. Gingival inflammation is typically more common with porcelain caps than gold caps.

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Porcelain Fused-to-Metal Caps

Advantage: The preparation of your tooth for a gold cap is the simplest and least complicated preparation. There is minimal tooth structure removal with as much as possible of the healthy tooth structure remaining untouched. As porcelain is hard by comparison, it may cause wear on opposing teeth over the years where gold is not as likely to do this. Gold is also easier to place to the area where the tooth and cap meet for a better fit. Gold is also a healthier environment for the gum tissue.

Disadvantage: The biggest disadvantage to gold caps is cosmetic, unless it is being used in the back of your mouth.

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