What is a dental crown?

A dental crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” that sits on top of a tooth. The crown covers the tooth to restore its shape, size, strength, and improve its appearance. Crowns, which are cemented into place, fully encase the visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line.

What types of crowns are available?

Permanent crowns can be crafted from:

Stainless steel crowns are prefabricated crowns used on permanent teeth primarily as a temporary measure. The crown protects the tooth or filling until the permanent crown is made from another material. For children, stainless steel crowns are most common. The crown covers the entire tooth to protect it from further decay. When a primary tooth comes out to make room for a permanent tooth, the crown will fall out at the same time. For children’s teeth, stainless steel crowns are used because they can be put in place in a single visit, making them more cost-effective than custom-made crowns and the preventive dental care needed to protect a tooth without a crown.

Metals used in crowns include:

  • Gold Alloy
  • Other Alloys (palladium)
  • Base-Metal Alloy (Nickel or Chromium)

Compared with other crown types, less tooth structure is removed when you have a metal crown placed. This means that adjacent teeth will also wear less quickly. Metal crowns stand up well to biting and chewing forces, so they’re likely to last longer than other types of crowns. They are unlikely to chip or break, but the metallic color is their main drawback—they look unnatural when used on visible teeth. Metal crowns are a good choice for back teeth that aren’t seen often when you smile.


Porcelain-fused-to-metal dental crowns are less likely to chip or break off than metal or resin crowns. Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns can also color-match your adjacent teeth. However, they require more wearing to the opposing teeth than metal or resin crowns. The porcelain portion of a porcelain-fused-to-metal crown often shows through as a dark line at the gum line, especially if your gums recede. Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns are usually used for front or back teeth.


All-ceramic or all-porcelain dental crowns provide a better natural color match than any other crown type and may be more suitable for people with metal allergies. However, they are not as strong as porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns and wear down opposing teeth a little more than metal or resin crowns. All-ceramic crowns are a good choice for front teeth.

Temporary versus permanent: Temporary crowns can be made in your dentist’s office, whereas permanent crowns are made in a dental laboratory. Temporary crowns are made of acrylic or stainless steel. They act as a placeholder while a permanent crown is created by a lab.


Zirconia or milled crowns are digitally constructed either in an office that has the software and hardware to produce them or in a dental lab. Dental offices that have the software and hardware can produce a crown in one visit with no need for a temporary one. These crowns require no impression.