A temporary crown is a dental restoration that offers cosmetic and functional help for patients who are waiting for a more permanent restoration. For some dental procedures, patients may not realize beforehand that they will receive a temporary crown. If that happens to you, here’s what you need to know.

When do you need a temporary crown?

A temporary crown serves several very important functions. If you are receiving a crown, your dentist will remove the decayed material (or otherwise treat whatever condition you are experiencing). Once this tooth material is removed, the sensitive dental pulp (dentin) may be exposed. This dentin needs to be protected to prevent further injury or damage while your permanent crown is made.

Temporary crowns protect your tooth, more so than a large filling would be. Additionally, temporary crowns preserve the space for a permanent crown. This is very important, as teeth will shift when there is space available in the mouth. Without a temporary crown, your permanent restoration may not fit when it is ready.

You might get a temporary crown when receiving care for:

  • A broken tooth or cracked tooth
  • Excessive tooth decay
  • Root canal

If you are getting a full or partial dental bridge that is anchored with a crown on either side, you may also get a temporary crown to attach your temporary bridge while waiting for permanent versions of both.

Temporary crown vs permanent crown

A temporary crown is exactly what it sounds like – a placeholder for a permanent crown. In addition to the longevity of each, there are other important differences.

Materials

Temporary crowns are most often made with acrylic or composite but lack a sturdy metal frame.

Permanent crowns can be made of ceramic or other strong materials, in some cases strengthened further by a metal frame.

Function

A permanent crown functions exactly like a natural tooth. It is strong and can be applied to every chewing and biting surface.

A temporary one is meant to only partially replace the function of a natural tooth. While it is possible to eat with a temporary crown, care must be taken to protect it while your permanent crown is being designed.

Appearance

Permanent crowns are custom made in a laboratory that can use computers to match the color and shape of your natural teeth. Once placed, it is difficult to distinguish a permanent crown from a natural tooth.

Temporary crowns can get pretty close, but they will likely not be an exact match.

What does a temporary crown look like?

Unlike a permanent crown that can be precisely color matched to your natural teeth, your temporary crown will probably not be quite as subtle. Your dentist will create the temporary crown in their office, but the variations in tooth color are nearly endless. It will be a close match as far as color goes.

Regarding the shape of your crown, it should match your natural teeth. Your dentist will ensure that your bite is the same as before, taking care to create a temporary crown that is the correct height and size for its location.

Truly, though, even with differences in appearance, most people will not realize you have a temporary crown. The match should be close enough to get you through the couple weeks that you need it.

How long do temporary crowns last?

If you are concerned about the inexact match of your temporary crown and your natural teeth, you will not have long to fret.

A temporary crown will only be in place two weeks or so, just until your permanent crown is ready.

What should I know about temporary crown care?

Even though your crown is only meant to be temporary, taking care of it can improve its function and ensure it does not become loose, cause pain, or break.

Here are a few ways to prolong the life of your crown.

Eating

If you have a temporary crown, eating is probably one of your main concerns. While a temporary crown restores the main function of your teeth, it is important to avoid hard, sticky, or chewy foods. These can break or dislodge the crown.

Also avoid chewing directly on the crown as much as possible. If you find this challenging, stick to softer foods like pasta, scrambled eggs, and cereals until your permanent restoration is in place.

Pain management

You should not experience temporary crown pain just because of the crown itself. It is possible for another dental condition to be revealed when the tooth is prepared for the permanent crown (e.g. reversible or irreversible pulpitis). Temporary crown pain may also occur if the crown is not properly sealed and hot or cold fluids come in contact with sensitive nerves.

At home, you can relieve minor discomfort with over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Saltwater rinses may also relieve your discomfort.

If your pain is accompanied by inflammation and redness, or if you experience extreme pain, fever, or a general feeling of being unwell, contact your dentist immediately. These can be signs of infection or other serious complications.

Dental hygiene

Dental hygiene is incredibly important to prevent further decay under the crown. Brush gently with a soft-bristled brush twice daily.

Flossing is important, but with a slight change. Instead of pulling the floss up or down between teeth, remove it by pulling through the teeth. This protects you from accidentally dislodging your crown.

What to do if temporary crown falls out

If your temporary crown does fall out, give your dentist a call.

If your permanent crown is nearly ready, they may recommend that you reattach the crown on your own with dental cement from the pharmacy. For temporary crowns that fall out after just a few days, you may need to visit the dentist to get it reattached more firmly.

AZ Dentist is your Phoenix area cosmetic dentist, specializing in crowns both temporary and permanent. Give us a call today for your most beautiful smile.