Temporary Crowns

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What is a Temporary Crown?

A temporary crown is a dental prosthetic used while the dentist or laboratory is fabricating a permanent, custom dental crown to protect a tooth. In most cases, a temporary crown will not be as precise or customized as a laboratory-made crown. However, it helps secure a tooth temporarily so you can eat and speak comfortably. 

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Most dentists will recommend a temporary crown if you have a root canal (and need a permanent crown) or are waiting for an implant crown. 

There are several benefits to temporary crowns, including:

  • Prevents tooth and gum sensitivity
  • Protects your actual tooth from tooth decay
  • Allows you to eat
  • Avoids gaps between your teeth
  • Prevents your teeth from shifting 
  • Helps maintain a healthy oral care

Temporary Crown Procedure Steps

The steps to prepare a temporary crown is usually simple and does not cause much discomfort. By the time your dentist creates a temporary crown, your dental office will have already administered anesthetic and prepared your tooth for the permanent crown. Typically, a digital or plaster impression for the custom prosthetic was already performed. 

The procedure steps for a temporary crown include: 

  1. Take an imprint of the prepared tooth using wax or plaster. 
  2. The dentist will use this “impression” and fill it with acrylic material that self-cures.
  3. The acrylic filled imprint will then be placed over the actual tooth several times to get a good fit.
  4. The temporary crown is fabricated from acrylic self-cures and adjusted carefully to fit your bite. Some dentists will use stock aluminum or stainless steel molar crowns. 
  5. Once comfortable, your dentist will use temporary cement to attach your temporary crown. 
  6. Excess cement is cleaned off, and post-operative instructions are given on how to care for your temporary crown. 

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Temporary Crown vs. Permanent Crown 

There are some very obvious differences between a temporary crown and permanent crown, including: 

  • Strength — A temporary crown is cemented with temporary cement that only lasts a few weeks. It is also weaker than a permanent cement. Permanent crowns are cemented with adhesive. They are meant to last many years and withstand harder foods and forces. Permanent crowns may need to be adjusted before being permanently cemented.
  • Longevity — A temporary crown only lasts a few weeks, while permanent crowns are made to last decades. 
  • Materials — Temporary crowns are fabricated from acrylic or metal, while permanent crowns are created from high-quality materials like porcelain, ceramic, gold, and stainless steel.
  • Fit — Most dentists will take an impression or try to create a temporary crown that is fully functional. However, a permanent crown fits precisely since it is laboratory-made from digital or plaster impression models. 

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What Does a Temporary Crown Look Like?

Most dentists will try to fabricate a temporary crown to look as close to a natural tooth as possible. Depending on the material and your dentist’s skills, your temporary crown may look like a simple version of a tooth or a well-sculpted tooth. Temporary crowns are usually fabricated from acrylic material or stainless steel. 

teeth with different types of dental crown

An acrylic crown will usually not match your adjacent teeth perfectly. This is because the material is one shade and may be lighter or darker than your actual teeth. A stainless steel crown has a metallic appearance and is typically very noticeable. 

How Long Does a Temporary Crown Last?

A temporary crown is not designed to last forever. It is used precisely as its name says. Most dentists recommend wearing a temporary crown for 1 to 3 weeks while a new crown is fabricated. This is because temporary cement can wear down and cause a temporary crown to become dislodged. 

Temporary crowns are not made in a dental laboratory. They are also not as strong as permanent crowns. 

While a crown is fully functional to eat with, you still have to avoid certain foods to prevent pulling off the restoration.

What to Do if Your Temporary Crown Falls Out

If your temporary crown falls out, call your dentist to make an appointment for it to be recemented. If you cannot get a dental appointment, you can use over-the-counter temporary dental cement to recement your crown until your visit

It would help if you did not leave the crown off as teeth can shift and develop an infection. You can temporarily re-cement your crown if it falls off. However, you should always check-in with your dentist to evaluate your tooth and temporary crown.

How Much Does a Temporary Crown Cost?

Temporary crowns are usually part of the cost of the permanent crown procedure. They are included in the final price. Many dentists do not charge separately for a temporary crown because it is not created to last long-term. 

A traditional, permanent crown can range in cost depending on your dentist, insurance coverage, and materials. Most will vary in cost from $500 to $2000.  

Temporary Crown: Common Questions & Answers

What is a temporary crown made of?

A temporary crown is made from acrylic material (think of acrylic nails) or a metal like stainless steel. The restorations are weaker materials in quality, appearance, and cost. They are also only designed to last short-term (as a placeholder) until your permanent crown is ready.

Can you brush a temporary crown?

You should always maintain good oral hygiene, even with a temporary crown. Brush your teeth with a toothbrush as if your tooth was permanent. Also, brush twice a day. Remember to brush gently with extra care, so you don’t dislodge the temporary crown. When you floss, you should gently slide the floss through instead of pulling it up and down.

Can I drink coffee with a temporary crown?

You should not drink any beverage that is extremely hot or cold. Doing so can disturb the temporary cement. If you must drink coffee, try to drink it through a straw and be aware of any extreme temperature.

Is a temporary crown always necessary?

A temporary crown is a necessary dental work if you are getting a lab-created permanent crown or implant crown because it temporarily protects your tooth. If your dentist does same-day crowns with CAD/CAM, you may not need a temporary crown. 

Do temporary crowns fall out easily?

Temporary crowns can serve you well functionally and esthetically short-term if you are gentle and careful. Be cautious and avoid sticky, hard foods, so you don’t pull off the crown. Avoid chewy meats, hard bagels and vegetables, and chewing gum. Temporary crowns can fall off, but that’s expected. Dentists understand they may need to recement them back on. 

How long can I go with a temporary crown?

Since temporary cement is weaker than permanent cement, your temporary crown can last a few weeks while you wait for your permanent crown. It is not a good long-term solution because they can chip, fracture, or fall off and cause problems with your adjacent teeth. 

What foods should I avoid with a temporary crown?

You should avoid hard and sticky foods to avoid pulling off the temporary crown. The cement is not as strong as permanent cement. It is best to eat soft foods until you get your permanent crown. Brush daily and rinse with salt water (an antibacterial rinse) to ensure food does not get trapped under your crown.

Resources

Christensen, G.J. "When is a full-crown restoration indicated?" Journal of the American Dental Association 138.1 (2007): 101-103. https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(14)61098-9/fulltext

D.M.D., J.L. & Hamm, R.C. & von Fraunhofer, Joseph. (1982). Effects of cement on crown retention. The Journal of prosthetic dentistry. 48. 289-91. 10.1016/0022-3913(82)90013-0. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/16449096_Effects_of_cement_on_crown_retention

Liebenberg WH Improving interproximal access in direct provisional acrylic resin restorations. Quintessence Int 1994; 25: 697–703. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9161247/

Margeas, R. Temporary Cement Options. Inside Dentistry. Jul/Aug 2011. Volume 7, Issue 7 https://www.aegisdentalnetwork.com/id/2011/08/variety-of-cements-offer-many-benefits

Wassell RW, St George G, Ingledew RP, Steele JG. Crowns and other extra-coronal restorations: provisional restorations. Br Dent J. 2002;192:619-622. https://www.nature.com/articles/4801443

“Why Do I Need A Temporary Crown?” https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/bridges-and-crowns/why-do-i-need-a-temporary-crown

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