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Dental Crown Procedure: What is a Dental Crown / Cap?

Have you ever been unable to fall asleep at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering what a dental crown was?  Maybe you’ve wondered what the difference between a crown and a cap was.  If so, this one’s for you!

Some teeth develop an unstable structure as a result of cavities or trauma (such as cracking a tooth.)  When a tooth has become broken down and is basically falling apart, sometimes a filling just won’t work.  Teeth that are broken down often need to get crowned or capped.

What’s the Difference Between Dental Crowns and Caps?

There really isn’t a difference between a crown or a cap.  A cap is simply a less technical name for a crown, kind of like chompers is a less technical name for teeth!

What is a Dental Crown?

A dental crown is like a glove that covers the tooth and holds it together, protecting it from further damage.

In order for a tooth to get a crown, the dentist will need to shave it down on all sides, take an impression of your teeth, send the impression to a lab, and have them make the crown.  In the meantime, the dentist will send you away with a temporary crown to wear.

That’s a simple written definition of a crown, but pictures are probably a lot easier to understand.  A little over a year ago, I was taking the first of three classes in making crowns and bridges.

Below you’ll find the crown I cut and the temporary crown I made for my first practical exam in that course.

What a Dental Crown Looks Like

Here’s what the tooth looks like before getting a crown.  I tried to photo-shop in a couple of cavities.  As you can see, the tooth is practically begging for a crown.

Dental Crown Tooth Before Being Prepared for Crown

Below, you can see what the tooth looks like after preparing it for a crown.  I cut around the whole buy xanax cheap tooth.  I had to cut away a specific amount of tooth (measured in tenths of a millimeter!) in order to do well on the practical exam.

Tooth Prepared for Dental Crown Cap

Below is the same tooth after being prepared.  This is what it looks like from the tongue side of the mouth.

Dental Crown Tooth Prepared Tongue Side View

In the picture below, you’ll see what the temporary crown looks like.

Tooth with a Temporary Crown

In case you are concerned about the lovely green color of this temporary crown, it is dyed that color for a purpose.  Our instructors have the students dye their crowns a different color each year to prevent upperclassmen from handing their old work down to classes below them.   Your temporary crown will match the color of your teeth, although it will not be quite as high-quality as the permanent crown since it is only intended to be used for a short period of time.

The next step would be to take an impression, pour it up in plaster and send that model off to the lab to have a permanent crown made.  I didn’t feel like footing the lab bill so that my plastic teeth could have a real crown, so there are no pictures of the permanent crown here.

Update: Extra Images of What a Dental Crown Is

Update 9/8/14: Now that I’m out of dental school I’m trying to spruce up the site a little more.  Here’s a few more images to demonstrate what happens when you get a dental crown:

Dental Crown Getting Cut

Dental crown getting tried on tooth and then cemented:

Dental Crown Getting Seated and Cemented


In summary, a crown simply covers the surface of the tooth to help protect it from further damage.

I hope that better explains to you what a dental crown is.  If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please leave them below in the comments section.  Thanks for reading!

Newer stock images of crowns ©Alex Mit/



  1. When I was getting a crown, years ago, my dentist colored my temporary crown black before fitting it and handing me a mirror! It was a great prank! 🙂

    • Haha, we always joked about that in our class when they had us make all different colors of crowns. It sounds like a great prank depending on how close you are to your patient! Thanks for your comment, Sabby.

  2. I plan on having all my teeth replace with crown. I have dry mouth and have tried everything. My teeth are weak and think this is the best way to go. What do you recommend. Thank you

  3. How long should I have pain after getting a crown? My dentist uses the CEREC option, so I get my permanent the same day. I had two crowns put on at once, but that was three weeks ago. It still feels a little sensitive around one of the crowns right at the gum line, especially when I use my Waterpik. Is this normal? It’s been three weeks and I’m beginning to worry. I did go back for a cleaning and the hygienist said everything looked great, but she did some x-rays. The dentist reviewed them and then examined my teeth. He said everything looked great as well. I’m hoping this is normal and will eventually go away. Any advice?

  4. This is a great article, thank you for sharing. I have been looking into getting a dental crown procedure, and I want to make sure that it is what I should do. I have been looking into getting this done for a few weeks now, because one of my teeth has been giving me a lot of trouble. Hopefully a dental crown is the answer, and we will be able to get this done as soon as possible.

  5. It’s nice to see the work I had done on my teeth. I have extremely week enamel. I get cavities all the time. I had to get a deep root canal a few years ago, and they put a crown on it. I am amazing at how much it looks like a real tooth. No one even notices that it is a crown. I am so grateful for modern technology and the advancements it brings

  6. These are great pictures that show the process of putting on a crown really well. My mom had a crown put in last month. She says it’s much easier to eat now. Also, she has a great smile to show off. How long does this process typically take?

  7. Thank you for explaining dental crowns! It was great to see some pictures of different stages of the process. I’m looking into different cosmetic dentistry options and this will definitely help me to make my decision!

  8. Wow, this was really helpful! My dentist has been recommending that I get two crowns done to protect my teeth from decay. He described it a couple of times but the graphics really made it click for me. I feel much more confident getting the procedure done now! Thanks so much for writing!

  9. Oh wow, so that’s what a crown looks and how it’s place in the mouth. Seeing that sure has me fascinated about how all the teeth should and shouldn’t look like. It seems like I’ll probably will have to teach my sons more about dental crowns since of their teeth does need to be repaired on.

  10. My front tooth is a crown and it fell off … Because Christmas is 6 days away I can’t get an appointment until after the holidays! Help! What is the best product to use to cement it back on temporarily until I can get an appointment? I am so afraid of swallowing it. I look like Ma Kettle without my front tooth!

  11. Thanks for explaining the difference between dental crown and caps. It is good to know that a dental crown is. I didn’t know that a crown did those things or that it made your teeth look like that. Thanks for the help!

  12. This is some really great information for anyone who has been suggested dental caps. I didn’t really have any idea what they were, and my dentist didn’t make it much clearer. But seeing the diagrams and images really helped me wrap my mind around it. It seems like a fairly simple, but effective procedure if you have severely damaged teeth. Thanks so much for writing!

  13. Cool post! I learned a lot about dental crowns by reading this article. Thank you for explaining that “A dental crown is like a glove that covers the tooth and holds it together, protecting it from further damage.” I have never had any problems with my teeth before but it is good to know that a dental crown is a good option to protect my teeth if they are ever damaged.

  14. Comment: All my teeth are brown, i am not even able to laugh because i am shy to show them. I would love to have all of them crowned and i have 24 of them so i would like to know how much it cost me.

  15. I am having my two top front teeth and one to the side crowned for cosmetic reasons. Three done at one time. I went in today to have my temporarily put on and they look exactly like my old crooked teeth..but worse. I am worried about the permanent crowns. How do they know what to order with the lab? It was my understanding that the temporary would be the build up that he told me he would do to change the appearance of those teeth. He didn’t do that. How will I know what they will look like and what if they are not we we discussed & agreed on? I came home and my husband says let me see with a big smile & I said there’s nothing to see. The Temps look like my old teeth but worse. I was in tears. I thought you got a preview of your crown with the temp. That once he shapes the temp and you agree on it, then he makes a mold of the temp and orders the perm. I’m so upset tonight. 2 of my front teeth are normal color, the other bright bright white. And I have to go to work tomorrow looking like this. One tooth is way longer too. I’m scared. What do I do?

  16. Thanks for explaining what the process of getting a crown is like. I just found out from my dentist that I need to get a crown on one of my teeth. I am still a little nervous about the procedure, but it is good to know know is going to happen. About how long does it typically take to get the permanent crown ordered from the lab? Thanks for the info!

  17. Thanks for this great post on dental crowns and the procedure involved with getting a dental crown. It is good to know that a dental cap is just a less technical name for a crown. I am also glad that you provided some pictures showing how the process works. Thanks for the help, it makes getting a dental crown seem less scary.

  18. I learned a lot about dental crowns by reading this article. i really like how you said that “A dental crown is like a glove that covers the tooth and holds it together, protecting it from further damage.” I have never had problems with my teeth before but I can imagine how helpful they can be when it comes to protecting your teeth.

  19. I like that there are dental crowns available for people who have had problematic teeth. It would be awful to have bad teeth and not be able to get them fixed. I like that they also look like your normal teeth. That can really help you to keep a great smile!

  20. Do you recommend someone currently in chemo to have this done? I would be concerned during impression tooth may be pulled out. Thus leaving bone exposed. What are chances of infection?

  21. The pictures you added made the process a lot clearer! I didn’t know that they shaved all around the tooth to add the crown! I also thought it was interesting to see that you dye the tooth green to prevent upperclassmen from handing down their projects to freshmen.

  22. The pictures helped a lot in determining the difference between a cap and a crown. Although there isn’t much difference between the two, it still both helps us in making a great smile.

  23. Thank you for sharing this informative information about dental crowns. Crowns are helpful for teeth that are cracked or decayed. In fact, they adhere to the tooth more permanently and offer a better aesthetic quality than a traditional amalgam filling. It is crucial you find a dentist you are comfortable with when you are in need of a crown. A dentist that is professional, affordable, and provides a positive environment is the key to having a good experience at the dentist. Thanks again for sharing!

  24. can they put a crown on a back molar that has a piece broken off & still has filling in? Im 77, would it be better getting it pulled?


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