Stainless steel crowns (SSCs) are dental restorations that cover decayed, damaged, chipped, or fractured baby teeth. In some cases, they are also used to temporarily restore a child’s permanent tooth until a permanent porcelain or metal crown is created. SSCs may also be placed after a pulpotomy (partial pulp removal) or in teeth with large cavities where amalgam fillings are likely to fail.
Since the 1950s, SSCs have been a valuable restorative material and treatment of choice by pediatric dentists because they are durable, strong, and affordable.
There are two primary indicators for the placement of SSCs in pediatric dentistry:
Plaque buildup is the primary cause of cavities. Plaque attacks tooth enamel, which causes holes and dark brown spots on teeth. If plaque is not removed completely, calculus (hardened plaque) forms and can only be removed by a pediatric dentist. Primary teeth are more susceptible to cavities and tooth decay because they have thinner enamel. Common causes of cavities in primary and permanent teeth include:
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 turns into sugar.
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.
Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing before bed, and rinsing with mouthwash help prevent cavities. 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 dental fillings.
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. Medications that can cause dry mouth and tooth decay in children include:
Stainless steel crowns, also referred to as caps, are pre-made and sized to fit over a child’s tooth. Dentists 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.
Advantages of stainless steel crowns for children:
The cost of a stainless steel crown depends on the dentist’s location and how many are needed. Since dental restorations are medically necessary, part or most of the procedures are covered with a good insurance policy. The prices below reflect procedure costs without insurance:
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“Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) in Children Age 2 to 11.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/dental-caries/children.
Koch Göran, et al. Pediatric Dentistry: a Clinical Approach. John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2017.
Nowak, Arthur J. Pediatric Dentistry: Infancy through Adolescence. Elsevier, 2019.