Of course, ancient dentistry was nothing like today -- most of the time, you went around with a tooth that bothered you until it either rotted and fell out, or you had it pulled out (by a person with many other tasks in his job description and without the benefit of modern pain medications). However, there were some restorative techniques, including crowns, even in ancient times.
The first known crowns were made of gold and used by the Etruscans, people who occupied most of what is today the Tuscan region of Italy from 700 B.C. to the first century B.C. Making and using crowns seems to have fallen out of favor during the Middle Ages, however. In 1530, the first book of dentistry, the Artney Buchlein, or "The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth," was published in Germany. It set the stage for treating dentistry as a profession and a science (rather than a side practice for barbers and blacksmiths, based on superstition) and included information about all types of restorations, including crowns. In the 1700s, crowns crudely made from animal or human teeth were installed using metal or wooden posts. By the mid-1800s, porcelain began to be used in crown making.
Crowns that truly fit your mouth, however, didn't come about until the early 1900s. The investment, or lost-wax casting method, was first applied to making them around this time. This method uses wax to create a mold, into which a material is poured and cooled to form the final product. In 1907, Dr. William Taggert not only built a machine used to cast the crowns, but also refined the technique, which allowed dentists to make precise, detailed crowns. Until the 1960s, when the porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns became available, most crowns were either porcelain or gold.
Now that you know how far crowns have come, read on to learn more about the types of crowns available today.