Demystifying Stainless Steel Crowns: Understanding the What, Why, and How

Dental caries is a predominant issue in young kids as much as it is for adults. Many children, even those who are below the age of 5 are developing symptoms of Early Age Carries, a disorder that is taking over young kids no thanks to the fancy processed foods that are available all around us. A diet rich in unhealthy snacks consisting of white sugar, high sodium, oil and other kinds of greasy additives have been directly linked to early age carries in young children.

The Primary teeth, which is the first set of teeth that babies develop around the ages 6 to 8 months, is of a very soft and vulnerable nature. These teeth become stronger as they grow and by the time the kid is 2 to 3 years old, most babies have a full set of 20 primary teeth. These teeth have a soft exposed core with thinner enamels. They are prone to plaque and therefore extra care needs to be provided to them so as to avoid the risk of dental caries.

Most parents assume that primary teeth care is unimportant owing to their temporary nature. Many children often ignore primary oral care as they are not given proper knowledge or training in this regard. Contrary to popular belief, primary teeth are very important in kids as they have some of the most important oral roles and functions. These primary teeth may be temporary as the naturally exfoliate and are replaced by permanent teeth, but they have some of the most irreplaceable functions such as:

  • Enables proper mastication in kids
  • Enables proper speech and enunciation in young kids
  • Enables self confidence and self esteem in growing kids
  • Helps with maintaining proper space and alignment when permanent teeth come in
  • Maintains the shape and protects the dental arch

It is important to teach young kids the importance of taking good care of their oral health by brushing twice a day and flossing from time to time. It is also important to notice if any teeth show symptoms of decay. Visiting a pediatric dental specialist once in a while to keep a check on your kids’ oral health is a great way to go about it. A small plaque buildup can quickly become a cavity and can deteriorate the entire tooth. It is important to quickly take action so that appropriate measures can be taken.

Dental Crowns

In most cases, when you have a tooth cavity, a dentist may either suggest a dental filling or a dental crown based on the size and impact of the carious lesion. Multi surface carious lesions may leave behind a structurally weak original tooth that cannot be held together by a dental filling. In such cases, a dental crown is the next course of action. A dental crown is placed on top of a cleaned and excavated tooth (removal of the infected portion). It acts like a cap or a crown by covering the original tooth and functioning like a natural tooth on itself. This crown can protect the underlying original tooth from further harm and protects the primary teeth and its subsequent roles in the patients’ mouth.

Stainless Steel Crowns - The Whats!

There are many different types of materials that are used to make dental crowns. Although crowns were originally used only for adults, the usage of crowns in children and pediatric patients is of higher importance today. By using crowns, dentists are able to protect primary teeth and avoid dental extractions which amount to unnecessary loss of tooth and cause pain and expose the child to further infections. Of all the different types of crown materials available in the market, dentists are most fond of Stainless Steel crowns.

Stainless steel crowns are often referred to as the most successful type of dental crown in the history of dental science. The reason for this is the simple, straightforward nature of this material - stainless steel crowns are safe, durable, inexpensive and come are available in a preformed manner which makes their use extremely easy. Stainless steel crown restorations can be done very easily with the availability of Prefabricated stainless steel crowns in the market and this is a boon when it comes to restoring baby teeth in children due to their lack of cooperation in dental procedures.

Stainless steel for pediatric dentistry has been in use from the 1960s but it has become more popular in the 2000s as more and more parents have become aware of the importance of preserving primary teeth in children and opting for crowns instead of extraction of damaged teeth. Stainless steel crowns are the best crown options as they are easy to work with especially in children because of their quick and easy restorative duration. Most children can have their crowns ready to go in just 2 seatings which is a considerably short duration.

Advantages of Stainless Steel Crowns - The Why!

Just as in stainless steel crowns for adults, stainless steel tooth crowns for children have the same, sometimes better benefits:

  • Strength

Pediatric stainless steel crowns made from stainless steel crowns are made with 12 to 30% of Chromium along with 8% or more of nickel which imparts good strength to these crowns. They can be used for posterior primary teeth restoration as they can handle high bite force, bruxism and are extremely resistant to fractures. All of these criterias make them perfect for use in children who have low dental hygiene, are fall risks and have higher probability of damaging their crowns. Stainless steel crowns are suited for children in such areas.

  • Durability

Stainless steel crowns get their ‘stainless steel’ tag because of the use of high strength materials such as Nickel, magnesium, chromium etc that impart longevity and durability to these crowns. With good hygiene and maintenance, these crowns easily outlast 10 years or more in a patient’s mouth. They are one of the most resistant crowns in the market.

  • Resistant to Gingival Infections

The material in itself is very safe and can be used without the fear of gingival infections. These crowns can be used even in younger babies safely as they do not cause any infection and are resistant to the bleeding that is usually caused during pulp therapy.

  • Economical

The highlight of these crowns are certainly their cost - since they come as preformed crowns, they are very inexpensive and can be purchased easily from the dentist's office, unlike other crowns that need to be made at the lab. They come in different forms and in different sizes and shapes and therefore all they need to do is contour the crown and adjust the fit according to the size of the treated tooth. Because of the ease of fixing up these crowns, they are cost effective. Even if a crown is lost, which children are more notoriously famous for, they can be easily replaced with another crown or the crown can be refitted accordingly.

  • Low Chair Side Restoration Time

As mentioned before, the chair side restoration time for stainless steel crown tooth is quite low. Prefabricated stainless steel crowns are available in many formats such as Pre Trimmed crowns, Untrimmed crowns and Precontoured crowns. These crowns can be chosen by the dentist based on the requirement of the patient. Within these crowns, many sizes and fits are available and with minimal chair side restoration, these crowns can be adjusted and cemented to the original crown. Within no time, the patient is all set and can soon start using the crown naturally.

Stainless Steel Crown Restorations - The How!

There are many different kinds of Stainless steel crowns available in the market. Many patients shy away from stainless steel crowns because of their metallic nature but the benefits of using these crowns over esthetically pleasing crowns are much higher and need to be considered. Today, esthetically pleasing options for stainless steel crowns are also available. These crowns are called Open Face Stainless steel crowns and Preveneered Stainless Steel crowns. They have a veneered coating on top which is often made of an esthetically pleasing colour and material that cover the metallic portion. Even if they do not mask the crown completely , they still are a good option for crowns in the anterior region.

Once the dentist treats the patient, usually using a pulp therapy (Pulpectomy or Pulpotomy) during which the infected portion of the tooth is removed and cleaned completely. Post this procedure, any bleeding or inflammation is controlled and a stainless steel crown of choice is chosen. Once the chosen crown is adjusted and crimped/contoured based on the measurements required, the dentist cements the crown in place using a Glass Ionomer cement. This is the most preferred type of luting agent for a stainless steel crown as it reacts well with the crown and provides the most durable restoration.

Post the placement of the crown, excess cement is wiped off and the petroleum jelly may be applied. The patient is asked to bite down to make sure the crown is properly fit. Once the fit is complete and all additional adjustments are made, after care for the crown is explained to the patient and the parents so that the crown is well cared for. It is important to follow all post-op care so that the crown has good longevity and durability. If a crown is loose or falls off, it must be treated as a dental emergency and needs to be set right back so as to prevent any infection.