According to the CDC, at least 31.6% of US adults aged 21 to 44 had untreated cavities from 2013 to 2016. This is 6.5% higher compared to the rate of 25.1% from 2005 to 2008.
The thing is, untreated cavities aren’t just painful; they’re also one of the top causes of tooth loss.
Fortunately, dental restorations, such as crowns or veneers, can help prevent tooth loss. They can even rebuild teeth that have sustained structural damage due to decay.
The big question now is, what exactly is the difference between crowns and veneers?
This comparison guide will get to the bottom of this question, so be sure to keep reading!
The Primary Difference Between Crowns and Veneers: Their Coverage
We’ll go into more detail later, but for now, know that coverage is the main thing that sets apart crowns vs. veneers. Dental crowns are like “caps,” which means that they often go over the entire teeth, from top to bottom. Veneers, on the other hand, only cover the front surface (the visible area) of the teeth.
Breaking Down Dental Crowns
Crowns, also known as dental caps, are covers molded to the same shape of the tooth they cover. Today, many of these cosmetic restorations consist of porcelain, ceramic, or zirconia materials. They can also take the form of composite resin, metal, or a mix of these various materials.
Most dental crowns cover the entire tooth structure, from the tip to the area above the gum line. In some patients, however, the dental cap only covers three-quarters of the tooth. Dentists refer to this as the “3/4 crown.”
What Are They For?
Dental crowns re-establish the original form and function of decayed or damaged teeth. They do so by replacing the outermost part of the tooth. Since they cover all sides of the teeth, they help reinforce and stabilize the treated teeth.
These characteristics of crowns make them the preferred treatment for severely decayed teeth. In such cases, the dentist would first remove the diseased areas of the enamel and dentin. After this, the remaining natural teeth would then slide into the crown.
Aside from severe decay, here are other dental problems that crowns can help correct.
Dental trauma is quite common, affecting an estimated 4.5% of the population. Accidents are the most common culprits behind these injuries. For instance, falls that affect the face can result in a huge portion of a tooth breaking up or chipping.
These are injuries that dental crowns can correct. These caps can also fix small to large tooth fissures and even wide cracks.
Significant Enamel Wearing
The enamel is the hardest tissue in the body, and it covers the outermost layer of the teeth. It consists of 97% hydroxyapatite, which makes it extremely hard and durable.
The enamel also protects the innermost and more sensitive parts of the teeth. These include the dentin, dental pulp, and tooth roots.
The dentin, which is right below the enamel, makes up the largest portion of the teeth. Unlike the enamel, this layer of the teeth consists of porous tissues. Inorganic matter makes up most of the dentin, but it also has organic materials and water.
As hard as the enamel is, however, plaque and tartar can destroy it through the acids they produce. These substances can dissolve and eat away at this tissue, giving rise to tooth decay.
Even if you take excellent care of your teeth, it’s normal for them to lose some enamel. The teeth that sustain the most wear, however, are the front teeth, followed by the molars.
Either way, severe enamel wearing can result in the exposure of the dentin. When this happens, tooth sensitivity, increased brittleness, and even pain may occur.
Tooth crowns provide a way to protect the dentin from further damage. In this case, the dental caps will serve as the replacement for the lost enamel.
Bruxism is a condition that causes unintentional clenching and grinding of the teeth. According to this Boise family dentist, it can be severe enough to cause headaches and jaw pain. Moreover, it puts so much stress on the teeth that they can chip, crack, or worse, break.
Bruxism is also a leading culprit behind the premature wearing of the enamel. What’s more, a lot of people aren’t even aware that they clench their teeth since they do it while asleep. In this case, what they have is “sleep bruxism.”
Whether you have awake or sleep bruxism, dental crowns can help protect your teeth. They can also address existing damages caused by excessive grinding.
Dental Crown Placement
Traditional crowns usually require at least two visits to the dentist’s office. During the first visit, you can expect to undergo a thorough dental examination. Your dentist will also take the first mold (impression) of your tooth/teeth.
After this, the dentist will file down the tooth and removes its enamel. The oral health care provider would also take a second impression of the filed tooth. All these molds then get sent to the dental laboratory that will make the veneer.
Manufacturing veneers can take several days, which is why you’d need to go to the dentist twice. You’ll have to wear a temporary crown as you wait for the permanent one.
Note, however, that some dentists now use computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technologies. These allow them not only to take digital molds but also to create the veneers themselves. As such, you can have the crowns made and placed all in the same day.
What About Veneers?
If dental crowns are caps, veneers are more like a mat, covering only the front surface of the teeth. However, these super-thin shell-like covers also mimic the natural color of the teeth. They also use the same materials as crowns, especially porcelain, ceramic, and resin.
What Are They For?
Veneers, like dental crowns, also replace lost tooth enamel. However, they can only act as a restoration for the visible part of the teeth, which is the front surface.
Despite that, there are many cases wherein veneers may be a better choice over crowns. Here are some of them.
Minor Surface Damages
Dental veneers may be enough to restore teeth that have sustained minor cracks or chips. The problem, however, must not be deep enough to affect even the underside of the teeth.
Veneers can also help correct rough spots caused by enamel wear. If these issues only affect the front surface of your teeth, then veneers may be a better choice than crowns.
Stained or Discolored Teeth
Intrinsic tooth stains are those that occur not only in the enamel but also in the dentin of the teeth. Because they affect the deeper areas of the teeth, whitening treatments may not be enough to get rid of them.
Dental veneers can help camouflage stubborn teeth stains and discoloration. In this case, it makes more sense to choose them over crowns, as you only want to hide the visible stains.
Only the canine teeth (the ones between the front teeth and premolars) should have a pointed tip. However, some developmental issues can cause other teeth to develop sharp ends too. In other individuals, misshapen teeth can look small and irregular in shape.
Veneers can be an ideal restorative option for such shape-related dental problems. The dentist can have them molded into the same size as the rest of the patient’s permanent teeth. This, in turn, makes all the teeth uniform in shape, size, and alignment.
Small Gaps Between Teeth
A diastema refers to a hollow space or gap between the teeth. In many people, these gaps usually occur between the upper front teeth.
Diastemas may not be a major health concern, but they can still be wide enough to cause the other teeth to “shift” or move. This is especially true in people with gaps between multiple teeth.
Teeth movement can then result in a bad bite or teeth misalignment. Teeth misalignment, in turn, has shown to raise a person’s risks for tooth decay.
Besides, for many people, a diastema can be a significant source of embarrassment. The gap can also make it easy for food debris to lodge between the teeth.
Veneers provide a quick way to close diastemas without orthodontic treatment. So long as the gap isn’t that big, a veneer can cover and minimize the space.
Veneer placement also involves removing some amount of enamel. This is a crucial step, as it prevents the shell-like cover from making the teeth too “bulky.” Also, compared to crowns, the dentist needs to remove far less enamel with veneers.
Your dentist may also need to create “etches” on the surface of your tooth. This will help improve the effectiveness of the adhesive that will bond the veneer to the tooth.
To activate the bonding material, the dentist will use a special type of curing light. This will trigger the bonding substance to harden and secure the veneer to the tooth.
Some types of veneers require at least two visits to the dentist. However, dentists who use CAM technology can complete the process in a single visit.
Crowns or Veneers? You Can Get Them Both
There you have it, your ultimate guide on the difference between crowns and veneers. As you can see, they have various uses, making them useful for a wide array of dental issues.
That’s why you don’t necessarily have to choose between the two. You can get both of them to correct various types of tooth flaws and imperfections.
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