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A Crown for a Baby Tooth……What?? Why??

If you are a parent who has heard those dreaded words, “your child has a cavity or cavities,” don’t be upset! You are not alone. It has been found that between 60-90 percent of school-aged children suffer from cavities.

Dental cavities can vary in size, some are superficial or minimal and can be treated with a filling. Other times, the cavity is large and deep and may require more extensive treatment to repair it. When the cavity has gotten too large to just “fill it”, you will begin to hear the words pulpotomy (baby root canal) and crown. Once a tooth has a large cavity, a filling is not capable of fully restoring the tooth to proper function. Your child’s back molars are the most used for chewing, and therefore require a sturdy restoration – typically a crown – that will hold up under pressure until it is time to come out. Because we place these types of crowns on back molars, they are rarely seen.

One of the most misconceived ideas parents believe is that baby teeth aren’t in their child’s mouth for long. But the truth is that those molars in stick in your little ones mouth to roughly the age of 12! Meaning, we need to do our best to keep them in there! Keeping the molars in their mouth until they are ready to fall out is important, because these baby teeth save a spot for the permanent tooth to grow in where it needs to be. By doing this it is helping prevent a complex orthodontic issue down the road.Therefore, there are two options for restoring a baby tooth with a crown: a stainless steel crown (silver) and a zirconia crown (white).

One of the questions we hear is does it have to be silver? Or do you offer white crowns?

Well, if that is a question you have wondered, we have the answer and the plus and minuses to both options!

One of the most common questions we receive when a stainless steel crown is suggested for your child is, why can’t we place a white crown on? That is a very understandable question. While we can do a white crown, but most pediatric dentists prefer to do a stainless steel crown for a few reasons:

  • For a long time, stainless steel crowns were the only treatment option. Therefore, researchers have had time to develop, improve, and restructure stainless steel crowns, and the materials used to place them, to provide optimal results. Stainless steel crowns can have great results for longevity, success rates, and retention (stay on and don’t come off easily).
  • You do not have to remove as much tooth structure – stainless steel crowns are thinner in size compared to zirconia crowns, therefore you don’t have to remove more of the tooth to make a stainless steel crown to fit. When it comes to preserving natural tooth structure it is in your child’s best interest to do so.
  • While stainless steel crowns provide function and restore the tooth, the drawback is that esthetically they will be “silver” in color. The common misconception is that this is a harmful “silver” or confused with mercury which was used in “silver fillings”. This is not the case, “silver” is commonly used to describe the crowns because their color is silver, but the material is stainless steel.
  • Zirconia crowns, also known as white crowns, offer a more aesthetic result because they are white in color.
  • Zirconia crowns are similar to a porcelain material that can not bend, mold, or adjust (like stainless steel). Therefore, getting the perfect snug fit to your child’s tooth can be a challenge and can lead to bacteria “re-entering” your child’s tooth. Good brushing and flossing is extra important in these cases!
  • Material cost for zirconia is higher, making the out of pocket cost for zirconia crowns exceed the cost of stainless steel crowns.

We know it is a lot to consider! Hearing that your child might need a crown on a baby tooth can be a shock, but choosing what option is best for your child is the next step! So, if you happen to be one of the parent’s that hear the words baby tooth crown, don’t fret, we got you covered!


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