Updated on February 9, 2024
7 min read

Stainless Steel Crowns: What They Are and How They Work

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If your child has one or more badly decayed or damaged baby teeth, their dentist may recommend stainless steel crowns. 

Many people believe that baby (primary) teeth don’t need to be treated because children lose them naturally. However, baby teeth play a key role in supporting proper speech and chewing habits. They also save space for your child’s permanent teeth to grow properly.

This article explains the importance of stainless steel crowns in restoring baby teeth. It also covers oral health tips to help prevent the need for stainless steel crowns.

What Is a Stainless Steel Crown (SSC)?

A stainless steel crown (SSC) is a type of pediatric dental restoration commonly used to repair decayed, chipped, or fractured baby teeth. They’re a durable and cost-effective way to temporarily restore primary teeth and prevent premature tooth loss.

Like other dental crowns, an SSC is carefully molded to fit snugly over the entire tooth. This helps prevent further decay and strengthens the tooth until it’s ready to fall out naturally.

stainless steel crown

Types of Stainless Steel Crowns

Stainless steel crowns, also called caps, are pre-made and sized to fit over a child’s entire tooth. The dentist will seal them in place with dental cement.

There are two types of SSCs available:

Precontoured Crowns 

This type of crown is the most popular because it closely resembles the shape and look of natural teeth. They are pre-contoured before placement and typically do not require much trimming.

Pre-trimmed Crowns

Pre-trimmed means it is already trimmed according to a specific size. They do not require trimming to fit the tooth. These crowns have straight, non-contoured sides.

How Much Do Stainless Steel Crowns Cost?

The prices below reflect procedure costs without insurance:

  • Precontoured Stainless Steel Crown ⁠— $300-$500 (per tooth)
  • Pre-Trimmed Stainless Steel Crown — $300-$500 (per tooth)

Since dental restorations are medically necessary, part or most of the procedures are covered by a good insurance policy.

Dental Crown Silver

Stainless steel crowns are cost-effective, long-lasting, and highly successful.

Factors That Influence Stainless Steel Crown Costs

Various factors influence the cost of stainless steel crowns. These include:

  • Material type Crowns made with higher-quality materials with better grade and quality are more expensive. These crowns may have additional coatings or specialty stainless steel formulations.
  • Procedure difficulty — The difficulty of placing the stainless steel crown can impact the overall cost. Some teeth may be difficult to access or require additional preparatory work.
  • Number of crowns required — If you need multiple crowns, the overall cost for the procedure may be higher
  • Dentist experience and expertise — Dentists with more experience and advanced tools may charge higher for stainless steel crowns

When Is a Stainless Steel Crown Necessary?

Scientific evidence shows that stainless steel crowns are the superior restoration choice for children at high risk for cavities.2 A dentist may recommend a stainless steel crown for your child in any of the following cases: 

  • Following pulp therapy (pulpotomy)
  • Cavities on multiple surfaces of a tooth
  • Poorly developed baby teeth
  • Weakened and discolored baby teeth
  • Thin enamel
  • Permanent teeth are eroded or worn down
  • A tooth is fractured
  • A filling would be likely to fail
  • A person is unlikely to attend follow-up appointments

Are Stainless Steel Crowns a Good Choice for Children?

Stainless steel crowns can be a good choice if your child has certain dental concerns. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends SSCs in children who:3

  • Have a high risk for cavities in their front teeth or molars
  • Have cavities that are severe or occur on more than one surface of the tooth  

Advantages of Stainless Steel Crowns

When it comes to durability and longevity, no other restoration material has been shown to outperform stainless steel crowns.2 

There are many advantages of SSCs for children, including:

  • An effective way to save baby teeth and stop the decaying process
  • Durable, strong, and inexpensive
  • Provide full-coverage protection for long-term
  • They do not need retreatment

When Should Stainless Steel Crowns Not Be Used?

There are certain situations in which SSCs are not recommended. These include:

  • The child has an allergy or sensitivity to nickel
  • The primary tooth is going to fall out on its own within 6 to 12 months
  • The tooth is loose

If general anesthesia is needed for the child to cooperate during the procedure, the dentist may consider alternative approaches.  

What Happens During a Stainless Steel Crown Procedure?

The procedure typically occurs in a dental office and only requires one visit. Here’s how it’s performed:

  1. Your child may receive medication to help them relax during the procedure.
  2. The dentist will numb the area with a local anesthetic to prevent discomfort.
  3. The dentist will remove decayed or damaged soft tissues from the tooth. If a pulpotomy is necessary, they will perform one at this time.
  4. Your child will be fitted for a crown.
  5. The dentist will make any adjustments to the crown so it fits the tooth properly.
  6. The crown will be cemented in place, and should last until the tooth naturally sheds.

What Causes Cavities?

Cavities are mainly caused by plaque buildup. Primary teeth are more susceptible to cavities and decay because they have thinner enamel.

Plaque attacks the tooth enamel, which causes holes and dark brown spots on teeth. If not removed, calculus (hardened plaque) forms and can only be removed by a pediatric dentist.

Here are four common causes of cavities in primary and permanent teeth:

1. Dietary Habits

Children and adolescents who consume foods and drinks high in sugar, such as candy and juices, are more susceptible to tooth decay.

Starches, such as chips, pasta, and bread can also lead to cavity development because they are high in carbohydrates, which turn into sugar.

2. Tobacco

Adolescents and teens who begin smoking or chewing tobacco early are more prone to tooth decay, tooth discoloration, and gingivitis (gum disease).

Eating sugary foods and smoking regularly can lead to enamel breakdown and cavity formation.

3. Poor Oral Health

Poor oral health can cause plaque and bacteria buildup. A good oral health routine includes:

  • Brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing before bed
  • Rinsing with mouthwash

Every six months, children and adolescents should also visit a dentist for professional teeth cleanings, fluoride treatments, and dental exams. During the exams, pediatric dentists look for signs of tooth decay and determine the best treatment option, including SSCs or cavity fillings.

4. Dry Mouth

Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands in the mouth do not make enough saliva and can be caused by some medications. Over time, dry mouth often results in cavity formation.

Adults and seniors are more prone to dry mouth because they take medications more often than children.

5. Medications

Certain medications can cause dry mouth and tooth decay in children. These include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Pain Medications
  • Parkinson’s Disease Medications
  • Antacids
  • Decongestants

How to Prevent the Need for Stainless Steel Crowns

Though SSCs are the preferred type of dental restoration, it’s best if your child doesn’t need one. You can reduce your child’s chances of needing a crown by promoting good oral hygiene. Here’s how to do that:

  • Brush your child’s teeth twice a day (they will need help until they have the dexterity to brush correctly on their own)
  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss their teeth before bed
  • Never put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk
  • Give your child water instead of sugary drinks
  • Schedule your child’s first dental exam by their first birthday
  • Visit the dentist for regular exams and teeth cleanings

Common Questions on Stainless Steel Crowns

Are stainless steel crowns permanent?

If a stainless steel crown is placed temporarily, it will be easy to remove. Permanent crowns are permanently cemented to teeth and are very difficult to remove.

Are stainless steel crowns used on adults?

Stainless steel crowns (SSCs) are rarely used on adults.

While SSCs are strong, they are not the most natural-looking and durable type of dental crown available. If an adult does get a stainless steel crown, it will only be used temporarily while the permanent crown is being fabricated.

How long do stainless steel crowns last?

Stainless steel crowns can last for four years or more. Once placed, a crown should last until the tooth is naturally lost.


Stainless steel crowns (SSCs) are the most commonly used dental restoration for repairing severely damaged and decayed baby teeth. Their durability and longevity outperform other restoration materials, making SSCs a cost-effective and reliable choice for children.

A child may need a crown if they have cavities that are too extensive for fillings. You can help reduce your child’s risk for cavities by teaching them how to properly care for their teeth.

Last updated on February 9, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 9, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) in Children Age 2 to 11.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 2022.
  2. Amlani, D.V., and Brizuela, M. “Stainless Steel Crowns In Primary Dentition.” StatPearls [Internet], 2023.
  3. Guideline on Pediatric Restorative Dentistry.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 2008.
  4. Beattie et al. “Fracture Resistance of 3 Types of Primary Esthetic Stainless Steel Crowns.” J Can Dent Assoc, 2011.
  5. Seale, N.S., and Randall, R. “The Use of Stainless Steel Crowns: A Systematic Literature Review.” Pediatric Dentistry, 2015.
  6. Mathew et al. “Evaluation of Clinical Success, Parental and Child Satisfaction of Stainless Steel Crowns and Zirconia Crowns in Primary Molars.” Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 2020.
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