Compared to fillings which just cover a small portion of a tooth, a crown (or cap) encases the entire visible portion of a tooth. In effect, the crown acts as the tooth's new outer surface. A dental crown is needed when a tooth has had a root canal, when a tooth is broken or cracked, or when a tooth is decayed to such an extent that fillings aren't able to repair the problem. The crown is able to provide a protective shell around the damaged or decayed tooth to strengthen it, as well as to improve the appearance of the tooth. They can also help restore a tooth to it's original shape, are used commonly for teeth that have been broken. While crowns come in different materials, the most common crowns typically have some mixture of porcelain in them to give them a look and feel similar to a natural tooth.
How it's done
The first visit to your dentist involves reshaping the tooth and taking impressions to create the crown. Typically a portion of you tooth will have to be removed for the crown to fit properly. After the dentist reshapes your tooth, he will use a special material to create an impression of your tooth. This impression will be sent to a dental laboratory and will be made into a permanent crown. Before sending you home, the dentist will create a temporary crown to cover your tooth until the permanent crown is placed.
When you return to the dentist, the temporary crown will be removed and the new permanent crown will be placed. Before cementing the permanent crown in place, the dentist will ensure that the crown fits comfortably and matches the color of your teeth.