You’ve no doubt heard of dental crowns. You may have friends who have had one placed to provide a protective cap over a tooth that has been worn down. Crowns can also hold together one that has cracked or been chipped or provide a natural-looking tooth replacement on top of a dental implant. Sometimes they are used to cover a large, unsightly filling or a misshapen or severely discolored tooth.

But you may wonder what exactly they are made of and what should be the best choice for you, given your oral health status and habits, cosmetics needs, and budget. These are the chief characteristics for each type to consider:

The least expensive and most convenient (because they are prefabricated and can be placed in one visit) are stainless steel crowns. However, because they don’t look like real teeth, they are usually just used to protect children’s from decay, before their permanent ones come in.

All-resin dental crowns are very affordable, though they wear down from chewing much quicker than other types and crack more easily.

At the other end of the cost and durability spectrum are those made of metal alloys, usually with a high content of gold or platinum. These rarely chip or break, making them good choices for the molars, where heavy chewing occurs and they are out of sight (since they don’t look like real teeth, of course). However, aside from the cost of precious metals, they may not be suitable if you have an allergy to the material.

All-porcelain crowns made of strong dental ceramic can be perfectly matched to neighboring teeth, so no one will know your beautiful smile includes crowns. They are a popular choice, especially for those with metal allergies, but occasionally crack if you are not careful about what you eat (sticky or hard foods).

Porcelain-fused-to-metal may be the best combination of durability, cosmetic appearance, and cost. A PFM crown looks like the top of your natural tooth and is stronger than a pure porcelain one, though if it does get chipped or if gums recede, the metal will show through (and sometimes a dark line will appear at the gum line). Of course, these are not appropriate for those with metal allergies.

But your situation and needs are unique, so set an appointment with our cosmetic dentist, Dr. Marine to examine all your teeth and make recommendations for your best cosmetic and functional options.