What is a Temporary Crown? What Does It Look Like, and What’s It for?

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temporary dental crown
Temporary crowns fill gaps while you wait for your permanent crown

What is a temporary crown? In short, temporary dental crowns are handy tooth-shaped caps that your dentist may give you while you wait until your permanent crown is ready to be cemented into place.

But what makes it temporary? What's the difference from a normal one? And should you get one?

We'll answer all these questions and more, and get to the bottom of why you may need to top your teeth with a provisional crown.

What is a temporary crown?

We know from the intro and from its very name that a temporary crown is exactly that, temporary. But maybe we should back up a second and review what normal crowns are.

Normal crowns are a protective and aesthetic cover that can be used for both natural teeth and implants. Crowns are an excellent solution to many problems, but they usually take two or three weeks to be made in the lab. So, while you're waiting for your permanent cap, your dentist will likely recommend a temp crown that you can wear in the meantime.

What are they made of?

A temporary crown is made by your dentist right in their office, usually from an acrylic-based material or metal. An acrylic crown will probably match the color of your teeth better than a steel one, although it won't be as good a match as the one being prepared in the lab. But no matter the color, it's only temporary and its main function is to protect your implant or natural tooth until your real cap is made.

Temporary crown vs permanent crown

So what's the difference between a temporary crown and a permanent crown? Besides the super obvious, the differences between these two types of crowns are:

  • Materials: Temporary crowns are made from either metal or plastic, while permanent crowns are generally made from higher-quality materials, including gold, ceramic, stainless steel, or porcelain.
  • Duration of wear: You will wear your provisional crown for two to three weeks, whereas your permanent should last anywhere from five to twenty-five years, depending on the quality of the materials used.
  • Form: Provisional crowns are made from a universal, one-size-fits-all form, that probably won't perfectly match the shape of the opposite tooth, whereas your permanent will be made just for you.
  • Fitting: Temporary crowns are cemented using temporary cement to your implant or tooth, and permanents are fitted with permanent cement. They also might require additional adjustments, like tooth filing.

Have a look at the table below to see a summary of the differences between these two types of dental crowns:

Temporary Permanent
Materials Acrylic (plastic) or metal Gold, ceramic, stainless steel, or porcelain
How long it lasts 2–3 weeks 5–25 years
Form Universal fit Custom made to fit your mouth
Fitting Temporary cement May need tooth filing or other adjustments before cementing with permanent cement

Do provisional crowns hurt?

Some people experience tooth pain after temporary crown placement. Sometimes they are too tall and collide with the opposing tooth, and this can even cause inflammation in your crowned tooth.

Another cause of pain can be when your temporary tooth crown isn't properly sealed, as this can expose your dentin and nerves to air, making it sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.

If you experience throbbing pain after temporary crown placement, there's also the possibility that there are underlying conditions like decay or infection that need to be addressed.

If you experience discomfort or minor pain, you can try some home remedies for relief, but if the pain becomes severe, or you experience prolonged temporary crown pain after a week, it's time to call your dentist.

How to care for your temporary crown

Temporary crowns aren't meant to last very long, but while you have one, for your own comfort and oral health, it's important to take good care of it. So let's take a look at some of the most important things to keep in mind while wearing a provisional cap.

Rules for eating and chewing

foods to avoid with temporary crowns
Think twice before you bite into that apple
  • Stay away from sticky: You should be able to chew normally with your temporary dental crown, however, it's best to avoid chewing on particularly hard or sticky foods like gum, hard candy, nuts, caramel, and apples. That's right, an apple a day won't keep the dentist away if you've got a temporary tooth cap!
  • Just say no…to sugar: You should always avoid too many sugary foods for your oral and overall health, but it's even more important with temporary crowns, because there may be a gap between it and your gums, where sugar can get in and set up camp, which could lead to decay.
  • Don't go to extremes: Stay away from extremely hot or extremely cold foods, as temporary cement for crowns may lose its staying power.

Hygiene

Keep your crown looking good, the tooth or gums below it healthy, and your adjacent teeth happy with proper oral hygiene. You should:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day (just like you would normally)
  • You may need to brush your crown a bit more gently
  • Take care while flossing so as not to dislodge the temporary crown cement.

What to do if it falls off

Sometimes, temporary crowns fall off, and if yours does, the best thing you can do is call the dentist. They'll want to replace it with another crown to ensure you don't leave an empty space in your mouth, which can cause all sorts of problems.

If you aren't able to see a dentist right away, you may want to consider a home tooth repair kit.

In the video below, Dr. Marzban gives her instructions for what to do if your temporary crown came off. She stressed that it's nothing to worry about, but that you should get it replaced. And if you can't see the dentist soon, you should get a repair kit until you can get in to see your dentist.

Conclusion

Temporary crowns are used to protect your gums, your implant, or your natural tooth while you are waiting for your permanent cap to be made. These temps are normally made from plastic, or acrylic, material or metal, and they are meant to be worn from two to three weeks unless your dentist specifies otherwise.

Some extra care needs to be taken with your provisional crown—you should avoid hard, stick or chewy foods, very hot or cold foods, and extra sugary foods. You should also make sure to continue brushing at least twice a day, and continue flossing, but be a bit more careful around the cap.

If you experiencing throbbing pain, call your dentist ASAP, however, a bit of discomfort is probably nothing too worry about. After all, it's temporary, and soon you'll have your permanent new tooth!

FAQs

How long does pain last after temporary crown placement?

You may experience mild pain or discomfort while you wear your temporary crown, which is normal in most cases, and not likely to go away until after you get your permanent one installed. If the pain doesn't subside with painkillers or gets worse, call your dentist. If you are experiencing extreme pain, you need to call your dentist as something serious could be wrong.

What do I do if my temporary crown keeps falling off?

If your temporary crown fell off, you should go see your dentist to get it put back in. If it falls off another time, you should still contact your dentist. They'll likely want to try to put it back on. You can use temporary repair kits in the meantime, but it's always best to talk to your dentist. Also, make sure to stay away from sticky and hard foods.

What does a temporary crown feel like?

A temporary crown may be a bit uncomfortable since it's not made to fit perfectly in your mouth. You might also notice that it doesn't fit perfectly with the opposing tooth when your mouth is closed. Let your dentist know about any discomfort you are feeling, especially if that discomfort turns into throbbing pain.

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Contributors:
Natalie Asmussen
Natalie Asmussen
Natalie Asmussen on LinkedinNatalie Asmussen on Website
Natalie worked in the medical sector for several years and now writes informative content about dentistry and healthcare.
Sources
American Academy of Periodontology: What Are the Consequences of Missing Teeth? Consulted 23rd May 2020.
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