A temporary crown is a dental procedure that is used to make a temporary tooth-shaped cap to cover over your natural tooth. They are meant to be used during the interim while you wait for the permanent restoration. After all, it is a temporary procedure and not a permanent one.
Temporary crown is the official name for it but they can be called by other names:
- Tooth cap – the layman’s term for it.
- Provisional crown – the technical name for it.
- Temps – what dental staff casually call it.
What does it looks like?
The temporary crown will look very similar to your natural tooth. To the eyes of non-dental professionals, they most likely wouldn’t be able to tell that it was a fake tooth.
As a generalization, there are two types of temporaries that are based on how they are made. The main difference is that one looks better than the other.
- Made chair-side. Most crown procedures utilize temps that are made chair-side and on the spot. Your dentist will make it right in front of you. Usually if you are getting this as a part of your crown procedure, you won’t be charged for it. However due to time constraints, it will look good but not as good as lab made ones.
- Lab made. These are made by the dental lab ahead of time and offer a lot more customization. You can choose any tooth shade that you want but of course, it will come at an additional cost. These do look better but come with a lab bill which you’ll be responsible for.
What material it is made of?
Temporary dental crowns are commonly made out of bisacryl composite and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). They are both a type of acrylic material and they share some resemblance to fake acrylic nails.
It is important to note that they are a type of temporary material, which means they were not designed to be long lasting. Their durability is sufficient for what your dentist needs to do but they will not last forever.
How is it made?
There are three different ways to make a temporary crown.
- Injection molding chair-side. Prior to shaving down your tooth for a crown, your dentist will take an impression (mold) of your teeth. They will use this same mold to fabricate the provisional crown. This is the easiest way for dentists to make your temp.
- Block temp technique. In lieu of using an impression, your dentist will literally carve the temporaries out of a block of acrylic. First they will mix the acrylic powder and liquid. Then they will place it on your tooth and wait for it to set. Finally they will trim it into a shape of your tooth. Only experienced dentists use this technique.
- Lab made. Temporary crowns that are made by the lab will be the most life-like looking but they will also be the most expensive option. This method requires an additional visit because you have to take impressions and send them to the lab so that it can be made beforehand.
Due to practicality and costs, most dental offices opt for injection molding or block temp technique to make it. It is only when special situations arise that they use the lab made provisionals. Most commonly it is if you are doing a BIG prosthetic case such as multiple crowns or full mouth reconstruction that you use the lab method.
When would you need a temporary crown?
There are many procedures and situations in dentistry which may require a temporary crown to be made.
- Dental crown. The permanent dental crowns are usually made by a dental lab which may take around 2 weeks. To prevent you from walking around with no tooth, a temporary is given to you.
- Dental Veneers. Veneers also need to be made by the dental lab. Since this procedure is mostly done for front teeth, you definitely can’t be walking around with shaved down front teeth. You will need temporaries for them.
- Implant crown. On a case by case basis, implants can sometimes be immediately provisionalized. That means they can get a temporary crown on the same day that the implant gets put in.
- After root canal. Typically root canal treated teeth will need to be crowned. You should expect to have a temporary at some point during the treatment process.
- Full mouth reconstruction. For those needing extensive dental work such as crowns on the majority of their teeth. Temporary crowns are crucial to the success of full mouth reconstructions. They serve as a “test drive” so that you can get feedback from the patient about how it feels and if they like how it looks. Once they’re happen with their condition, the permanent ones can be made.
Benefits of temporary crowns
Having a temporary crown will yield many benefits such as providing aesthetics, function, and protection for your tooth. Honestly there isn’t a reason to not get one.
- Aesthetics. In the interim while you’re waiting for your permanent restoration, it is unacceptable to smile with a shaved down tooth. Getting a temporary will mask the fact that you’re getting dental work done. You’ll be able to smile with confidence.
- Function. A shaved down tooth does not provide adequate chewing power. Having a provisional restoration will restore your ability to chew foods.
- Protection. The temporary crown serves as protection for your natural tooth underneath. This is especially true if the tooth is still alive and never had a root canal. Without a temporary tooth cap, the tooth will be extremely sensitive to temperatures.
- Stabilizes teeth. The adjacent teeth can start shifting if you don’t have a temp to hold it in place. We find this happening a lot whenever the patient loses their temp on the first day. The permanent crown insertion appointment requires more adjustments because the adjacent teeth have moved!
Downsides to getting one
The provisional crown may not be as pretty as the permanent one but there really isn’t an alternative. When you need one you should get one. There is no reason to not get one because the alternative of having no tooth will outweigh all of the negatives. Therefore there are no disadvantages to getting one.
Temporary crown aftercare
- Brushing. You can treat it as if it was any other tooth in your mouth. Use as much of your favorite toothbrush and toothpaste to your heart’s content. Manual and electric toothbrush are both okay. Just remember to brush the temporary crowns because they can accumulate plaque and residual food just like other teeth.
- Flossing. You can and should floss but you need to modify the technique to prevent it from popping off. After flossing through, you should pull the floss out through the side. Do not pull back up the same way that you flossed down because you can accidentally loosen the temporary. The floss can sometimes catch underneath of the margin and lift the temporary up. It was glued in with temporary glue so it isn’t as retentive.
What can you eat?
You can eat with it but you do want to be mindful of what type of food that you eat with it. There are certain foods that you should avoid because they can either dislodge or break the temporary crown.
- Hard foods. Very hard foods like nuts, ice, crab legs, etc. These are all too hard for the temporary and can potentially damage, crack, or pop it off. The durability of these acrylic fake teeth are similar to the acrylic nails. They get damaged and become loose quite easily.
- Chewing gum. The temporary crowns are all cemented with temporary glue. That means sticky chewing gum will grab onto it and pull it right off of your tooth. Please refrain from chewing gum while you’re wearing the temporary.
Aside from those two rules, you can eat and drink just about anything. Softer foods do tend to extend the longevity of your temp.
How long does a temporary dental crown last?
Most temporary crowns can last up to 30 days, which is more than enough time for you to get your permanent restoration. After that they will either start to break or the temporary glue will begin disintegrating. In other words, they’ll probably become loose and come off.
The 30 day rule applies to the temporaries that your dentist makes for you. The laboratory made ones can last from months and up to a year. Once again, these come at an additional cost and require more time to make. They’re reserved for more complex treatment cases.
The vast majority of the complications stem from the temporary crown’s durability and the temporary cement that is used to glue it in.
Temporary crown fell off
The temporaries are glued in with temporary cement so that they can be easily removed by your dentist. The reason for not permanently gluing it in is because your dentist still needs to take it off to glue in the permanent crown. If they use permanent glue, it may not come back off and that’ll be a different problem in itself.
The temporary glue makes it a risk factor for it to come off while you’re eating or flossing. This is especially true if you eat sticky foods like caramel, toffee, or chewing gum. Please abstain from those until you get the permanent crown.
What can I do if it comes off?
The best thing to do is to have your dentist glue it back in for you if it comes off. However if you’re on vacation and it comes off, you can try to do it yourself with temporary glue from the pharmacy. Most pharmacies should have a temporary filling and loose cap repair product.
How to glue it back in:
- Clean temporary crown. Rinse it with cool water to remove debris.
- Brush and floss. Make sure your teeth are squeaky clean because you want to glue the temporary back onto a clean surface.
- Try the temporary back in. Place the temporary back onto your tooth to make sure it fits. Remember the orientation and the direction it is supposed to go back in.
- Rinse and dry temporary. The glue works better without saliva.
- Place glue in crown. Place a thin layer of the temporary cement in the crown. Putting too much can prevent it from seating back in.
- Bite down gently. You want to bite your teeth together gently for a couple of times. This step ensures that the temporary crown is seated and you have the correct bite
- Clean around temporary. Wet a Q-tip and clean the excess glue off of the temporary margins by the gums.
- Wait an hour before eating. It takes about an hour for the glue to fully harden and set. Do not eat before then or you may risk it coming off again.
Broken or cracked temporary
Eating food that is too hard can potentially damage or break the provisional crown. If that happens you cannot reglue it back in because a brand new one needs to be made. You will have to return to your dentist to have the procedure redone.
What if you swallow it?
Since it is glued in with temporary cement, it may come off during your meal. Most of the time you’ll catch it and spit it back out but once in awhile you may not be so lucky. Some people have accidentally swallowed their temporaries before.
As scary as that may sound, there isn’t actually anything you can do if you swallow it. You should definitely give your dentist a call and inform them. There won’t be any emergency stomach surgery to retrieve it because it is too risky.
It is far safer to just wait for it to pass through your digestive system and come out on the other end. You’ll simply poop it out and that is less risky than stomach surgery. You can try looking through your poop for it but that isn’t very practical. In our opinion you should just have faith in your digestive system and assume its gone by the end of the week.
Temporary crowns that are made by your dentist for crowns or veneers shouldn’t cost you any money. The fee for it is included in the procedure for the permanent restorations.
The only time it would cost you money is if you requested laboratory made provisional crowns. Your dentist is forced to charge you extra because the lab will send you a bill for it! How much it will be will all be dependent upon how much the lab charges.