Dental Crowns

Types of Crowns

Gold crowns definitely make a statement!
Gold crowns definitely make a statement!
Charles Gullung/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Have you ever seen a person with a gold tooth and admired the look? Then a gold crown might be for you. Crowns are also available in all porcelain or ceramic as well as porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) or porcelain-fused-to-gold (PFG). Different materials not only have different price points but also different life spans. Which type of crown you get depends on what you want and what you can afford.

As you might imagine, full gold crowns are the most expensive option, and they do make quite a statement. They're formed from a single piece of metal alloy (mostly gold, but also platinum, copper, tin and other metals). Gold casts easily, and it expands and contracts with cold or heat at the same rate that teeth do, which means a better-fitting crown. Gold crowns also take the prize as the most resilient and longest-lasting crowns, and they're the best option for molar crowns or if you grind your teeth. However, they can also conduct heat and cold well, which can make the tooth underneath more sensitive if you haven't gotten a root canal.

At the other end of the spectrum are porcelain or ceramic crowns. They look just like real teeth, because they can be colored to perfectly match the rest of your teeth, and they have just the right amount of translucency. They are also the least expensive option, and are more prone to chipping or cracking. Most dentists don't recommend all-porcelain or all-ceramic crowns on molars because the grinding action can quickly wear them down.

The PFM or PFG options provide the best of both worlds, so to speak. These crowns consist of a thin shell of porcelain fused to a metal post. The metal post provides durability, while the porcelain shell gives a more natural look (although not as natural as a purely porcelain crown because of the metal underlay). Depending on where the crown is placed, the porcelain may just be applied to the front of the tooth where it will be visible. One negative with PFM crowns is that if your gumline recedes at all, a thin gray line may become visible.

Making crowns is a kind of art. Read on to learn how laboratories make each one unique.