Why can tooth decay still happen under crowns?

A crown is a great solution for a tooth that is severely damaged, cracked, or has decay, enabling you to restore the function and aesthetics of a problematic tooth. Once you have received your new crown and are enjoying the renewed bite and function of your tooth, it might be easy to slip into old habits of not always being vigilant with your oral health regimen. But don’t forget you can get a cavity under a dental crown.

Crowns are not a guarantee against further decay. Since the dental restoration connects to your natural tooth, decay can still form around the edges of the crown. Once that happens, the only way to permanently fix it is to remove the old crown, drill away the decay, and get a new crown placed. That is not an ideal outcome after you’ve already gone through the process to receive a dental crown!

Paying close attention when brushing and flossing the area where your crown attaches to your natural tooth can help you avoid any further tooth decay. If you suffer any damage to your crown or you feel it’s not fitting as well as it used to, this could be a sign you may need to get it checked. Bacteria are much more likely to build up on the natural tooth below if there is a gap, and this may trigger or aggravate tooth decay. Tooth decay does progress in different stages, and knowing when you might need to call your dentist in East Norrington, PA, can help you catch any problems early.

Different stages of tooth decay

While it may sometimes feel like tooth decay happens overnight, it actually occurs in very distinct stages. Let’s take a look at the different stages of tooth decay so you can better understand how cavities develop and make an informed decision on the kind of treatment that’s right for your situation.

Stage 1: Initial demineralization

The first sign of tooth decay is normally white or brown spots that appear on the surface of the tooth. This occurs when the tooth gets exposed to the acidic byproduct of the bacteria found in plaque. It weakens the enamel and breaks down minerals, mainly calcium.

Stage 2: Enamel decay

In the second stage of tooth decay, the white or brown spots on the tooth turn to a dark brown color, sensitivity increases, and cavities form. Acids continue eating away at the translucent enamel to expose the darker dentin layer.

Stage 3: Dentin decay

Since the dentin layer is softer than enamel, once acids reach here, the process of tooth decay accelerates. The biggest sign of decay in this stage is often increased tooth sensitivity when consuming hot or cold foods.

Stage 4: Pulp damage

If decay progresses further, the pulp layer beneath the dentin will soon get infected. Because it consists of blood vessels and nerves that keep the tooth healthy, damage to this layer leads to severe toothaches.

Stage 5: Abscess

Once tooth decay reaches the fifth and final stage, the infection may cause inflammation that creates a pocket of pus at the bottom of the tooth. This abscess is often extremely painful.

Stages of Tooth Decay Treated with Dental Crowns (or Root Canals)

Typically you’ll need a crown once decay severely damages the dentin layer of your tooth. A dental crown is a custom-fitted covering that replaces your tooth’s entire natural crown. This will restore the tooth to its normal size and function. Often dentists place crowns on teeth that have extensive decay and not enough tooth structure to support a filling. First, your dentist will drill away any weakened or decayed parts; then she will use the remaining tooth material as a stump on which to place the crown.

If the damage extends to the pulp layer, your dentist will need to perform a root canal to remove the damaged inner tooth before placing the crown. If you have an abscess, your dentist will also likely perform a root canal to remove the infection then seal the tooth with a dental crown. Porcelain, ceramic, metal, and porcelain-fused-to-metal are just some of the materials your crowns can be made from.

When is a tooth with tooth decay not crowned?

At Cooley-Bentz Dental Associates, we understand the importance of keeping your natural teeth for as long as possible. Sometimes, though, decayed teeth are too far gone and that’s no longer an option. One such case is when an abscess-caused infection fails to respond to root canal treatment. When a tooth reaches this point, it’s often necessary to completely remove it and replace the tooth with a dental implant, preserving your surrounding teeth and protecting your oral health.

Let’s talk about crowns today!

Regular dental visits can make all the difference when it comes to your oral health. Your dentist can help spot tooth decay in its earliest stages (initial demineralization) and also advise you on how to take better care of your crown. Feel free to schedule a consultation with us if you’re still not sure that this dental restoration is the right fit for your situation. The health of your smile matters to us!