Metal Marvels: Exploring the Strength and Style of Stainless Steel Tooth Crowns

Parents always want the best for their children - an undeniable fact that makes them look out for the best options when it comes to their childrens’ health and safety. With time, the options that parents have, when it comes to children's dental health, has improved and multiplied, which can create confusion in terms of choosing the right dental solutions for your child.

In this article, we explore the timeless marvel that is the Stainless steel crown which has been in use for more than half a century. Stainless steel tooth crowns are perhaps the only type of metal crowns that are still being used extensively in the dental world. The fact that these crowns have been around ever since the 1950s and still are relevant in today's modern world is a testament to their quality and credibility.

Applications of Stainless Steel Crowns

Stainless steel crowns were first used in the 1940s and were famously used by all dentists soon enough. It was one of the best dental inventions and was incredibly popular amongst dentists for its incredible strength, ease of use and high durability. Even when many new kinds of restorative materials were later discovered, stainless steel crowns are still considered to be the holy grail for pediatric patients by dentists all over the world.

To understand the reasons why stainless steel crowns are credited to be ‘Metal Marvels’ in the dental world and to discuss more about the strength and style options that are made available via stainless steel crowns, let us first look into the applications of stainless steel crowns in pediatric patients. There are certain indications and applications of stainless steel crown tooth  in patients and some of the notable ones are mentioned below:

  1. When a restorative option is needed for a young patient with primary teeth issue pertaining to the posterior area in case of early age caries
  2. Minimal removal of tooth structure was made and therefore maximum retention of the original structure is to be given importance
  3. Protection of the original tooth after pulpal therapy in a young patient to prevent further damage and protection from germs or infections
  4. For patients who have suffered tooth damage that does not pertain to caries or decay such as weakened tooth, missing tooth due to accidents, discoloration, fractured or chipped tooth etc. 
  5. To retain the functionality of the primary tooth incase of the absence of the original primary tooth so that day to day activities such as chewing, cutting up of food, speech and enunciation, learning abilities and psychosocial abilities are not hindered.

These are some of the applications of stainless steel crowns in young patients. Although stainless steel crowns are one of the most preferred options even today, there are some contraindications or situations where these crowns may not be the right choice for the patient. This includes scenarios such as:

  1. Patients who have a known metal allergy or allergy towards the nickel component in the stainless steel crowns
  2. Patients who have excessive bruxism which may cause severe damage to the crown
  3. Patients with excessive removal of the original tooth structure because of which the tooth strength is compromised. 
  4. Patients who need anterior teeth restorations and need an esthetic option. 
  5. Patients or parents who are wary of metal insertions and want to avoid metal.

Relevance of Stainless steel crowns in the modern world

Stainless steel crowns may sound like an outdated option given that more and more esthetic restorative materials have come up in the dental world in the recent past. But many dentists and parents still swear by the ease and comfort of stainless steel crowns. There is a certain level of reliability and simplicity to these crowns that is unlike any other dental restorative methods or crowns available in the market even today.

Stainless steel crowns are credited to be the most recommended form of dental crown for posterior primary tooth restorations by dentists. Some of the reasons why these crowns are still superior to the other types of modern and esthetic looking options available today are:

  1. Superior Strength

Stainless steel crowns are strong and exceptionally reliable which makes them perfect for young children who are still learning their mastication skills. Lack of posterior molars can cause neuromuscular imbalance because of the lack of a strong posterior primary tooth and hence, stainless steel crowns can regain this functionality and help protect against such scenarios.

Not only are these crowns perfect for young children, the strength and reliability of these crowns are so high that the use of stainless steel crowns for adults still continues for many different reasons in patients who have low dental and oral hygiene and little access to these facilities. Most elderly patients are also ideal candidates for stainless steel crowns.

  1. Fast and easy adaptation

One of the best advantages of stainless steel crowns is the fact that they are mass produced and come in many different sizes and shapes. Prefabricated stainless steel crowns are made in manufacturing facilities in many kinds of dental shapes so that they can be easily selected and adjusted in the patient's mouth by the dentist at the clinic itself. This requires very little time and adjustment and therefore, patients are often good to go within a few minutes. 

Given that the ideal patients for temporary stainless steel crowns are young children who usually do not cooperate for elaborate dental procedures, prefabricated crowns make the lives of dentists and parents that much easier. The crowns are quickly trimmed and adjusted on the spot and are also easy to adapt to once the child starts using them.

  1. Durability

Stainless steel crowns are extremely durable thanks to their superior strength and malleability. These features make them thin, flexible and still very strong and therefore be able to adapt to the habits of a patient and survive for longer durations within the patients’ mouth. Temporary dental crowns such as stainless steel crowns are expected to stay intact for 5 to 7 years but with excellent care and good hygiene, they can serve well over 8 years.

7 to 8 years is a general period of time when a patient may undergo natural exfoliation of their primary teeth. Since this is easily achievable using stainless steel crowns, durability is another big advantage with these crowns.

  1. Economical

Another huge plus with stainless steel crowns is the fact that they are extremely affordable. Traditional prefabricated stainless steel crowns are the cheapest but there are newer, more esthetically pleasing variants that are now available in the market which may be priced higher. Even then, these crowns are way cheaper than their counterparts such as Porcelain crowns, Polycarbonate crowns, All ceramic crowns etc.

Most parents do not want to go in for expensive crowns as these are naturally replaced by permanent teeth within a few years. Some children need a longer crown duration such as in cases where a child loses his/her teeth by the age of 4 to 6. In this case a more esthetic, expensive crown may seem like an investment but for children who are looking for posterior dental restorations and those who are nearing their natural exfoliation period would benefit highly from stainless steel crowns. They only cost around 1/3rd of the cost of other crowns.

  1. Option to enhance esthetics

Stainless steel crowns have also come a long way from the time they were popularised in the 1950s. Now there are aesthetically pleasing options that are available for both posterior and in some cases, anterior restoration as well. These crowns are called preveneered stainless steel crowns or open faced stainless steel crowns. In this crown, the front exterior is either covered using an esthetically pleasing veneer or a mould that can be colour matched with the rest of the teeth, to provide a more natural appearance.

The veneers are made from resin shells and are effectively used for molars or incisors for a natural look. Preveneered stainless steel crowns have a few constraints of its own such as limitation in crimpability, requirement for more space and therefore higher tooth removal, the resin facing is more prone to fracture and chipping etc. Even then, given the advantages of stainless steel crowns, they are still a great option for young kids.

Maintenance of Stainless Steel Crowns

It is easy to maintain stainless steel crowns when compared to other types of crowns such as resin strip crowns or all ceramic crowns. All kinds of crowns require basic hygiene and maintenance by regular brushing and flossing. Although with stainless steel crowns, there are low chances of fracture or chipping when compared to ceramic or polycarbonate crowns, basic upkeep of oral and dental hygiene is still necessary.

After the restoration procedure is completed, the child should be educated on the importance of dental health and hygiene and instructed on methods to keep the crown clean and functional. This helps in elongating the durability and improving the success of the crown in the child's mouth. If a crown is dislodged, the child and the crown should be brought into the dental office for affixation. The crown, if secured, can be easily placed back and if not, a new crown of the size and shape can be chosen and fit by the dentist.