Dental Crown

Dental crowns can do so many things, but their most important job is to protect your natural tooth. We may recommend a crown for a variety of reasons, but there may be some cases where there’s just not enough tooth to support one. 

So, how much tooth is needed for a crown, and what happens if you don’t have enough? 

Why Do You Need Dental Crowns?

Dental crowns are placed over your natural tooth to help restore its function and protect it from further damage. 

Crowns may be recommended for a number of reasons, including:

  • Large cavities
  • Significant acid erosion
  • Large fillings
  • Loss of enamel due to clenching or grinding
  • Root canal treatments
  • Cracked teeth

In fact, single crowns are one of the most common dental restoration procedures. Click here to learn what to expect from a crown procedure. We perform them all of the time in our office. 

When the enamel is no longer performing its function, a crown may help save the tooth from extraction.

But in order for the crown to fit properly and remain secure, we need to prepare the affected tooth by shaping it and removing any decay or filling material.

If there are any areas of the tooth that are severely broken down, then we may need to rebuild them. The process is similar to getting a filling. We’ll use a special material to add onto your natural tooth and create the support the crown will need.

Because we need to shape the tooth, a crown is only a viable option if you have enough natural tooth left. 

How Much Tooth is Needed for a Dental Crown?

Now that you understand why you may need a crown and how it works, let’s talk about how much tooth you need to place one.

As a general rule of thumb, you need at least two millimeters of tooth to place a crown. That’s about one-quarter of the visible portion of your tooth.

Minimum 2mm of solid tooth needed for crown

If you don’t have enough natural tooth to support a crown, the restoration could fail or you may experience complications like a fracture.

What Happens If I Don’t Have Enough Tooth for Dental Crowns?

What if you could benefit from a crown but you just don’t have enough natural tooth to make it work? We do have options, and we’ll discuss them with you during your visit.

The most common options include:

Composite Resin

If there’s not enough natural tooth to support a crown, we can recreate it by building it up with composite resin. 

Composite resin is a tooth-colored substance that bonds directly with your enamel, and it can help build up your tooth’s outer structure enough to support a crown.

Composite resin on its own is not a strong enough material to restore a damaged tooth, but it works well with a crown to restore a tooth’s function and appearance.

Crown Lengthening

If building up the tooth isn’t an option, crown lengthening is another alternative. If there’s not enough tooth above the gum line, we may be able to remove some of the gum tissue to expose more of your natural tooth.

The gentle removal of gum tissue may create just enough space for a crown to be properly fitted. 

Dental Bridge

If we can’t build up the tooth or perform a crown lengthening procedure, then a dental crown likely won’t be an option.

However, there are other alternatives, like a dental bridge.

In this case, we would extract the affected tooth and replace it with a bridge prosthetic. Bridges consist of two dental crowns and an artificial tooth at the center. The crowns sit over two healthy teeth on either side of the gap to support the artificial tooth.

If you have healthy teeth on either side of your affected tooth, then a bridge may be a great option for you.

Dental Implants

Dental implants are another option if we cannot place a crown, but like with a bridge, we will have to remove the affected tooth.

Once the tooth has been removed, we will implant a titanium post into your jaw, which will replace the root of your original tooth. Once placed, the bone of your jaw will fuse with the post to provide a solid support structure for the crown. 

While implants provide the most natural look compared to other restoration options, they can be a lengthy and costly procedure. That said, implants are the longest-lasting tooth replacement option and will help prevent tooth shifting. 

If a crown is not an option, an implant is worth considering.


If you need a root canal and your tooth needs some more internal support for a crown, post-and-core may be an option. 

In this case, we would cement one or more small posts inside of your tooth. These posts serve as a foundation for your crown, but they also help support your tooth.

Post core and Build Up
Post Core and Build Up

Understanding the Dental Crown Procedure

The procedure for placing a dental crown is simple and straightforward, but it will require at least two visits. 

  • During the first visit, we’ll prepare your tooth by reshaping it. We’ll also take an impression of your tooth, which will be sent to a lab that will construct the crown. To protect your newly shaped tooth, we’ll place a temporary crown.
  • Once your permanent crown arrives from the lab, you’ll come in for your second appointment. We’ll first remove the temporary crown, and then cement the permanent crown in place. We’ll also check to make sure that the crown is fitting properly and make adjustments as needed until everything is just right.

When you come in for your first visit, we’ll take an X-ray of your tooth and jawbone to look for decay or other factors that could increase the risk of infection of the tooth. Depending on what we discover, you may need a root canal before we can place the crown.

Otherwise, we’ll get to work shaping your tooth and preparing for your final crown.

Types of Crowns

Now that you have a better understanding of the procedure, let’s talk about the types of crowns that are available.  

Dental crowns can be made from a variety of materials, including:

  • Porcelain
  • Metal
  • Ceramic
  • Zirconia
  • Composite resin

Each of these materials has benefits and drawbacks, which we’ll discuss with you. When selecting a material, we’ll consider several factors when making recommendations, including:

  • How much of your tooth will show when you smile
  • The location of the affected tooth
  • The tooth’s function
  • The position of your gum tissue
  • The color of the surrounding teeth

We’ll discuss all of your options for materials so that you can make an informed decision.

Caring for Your Dental Crowns

With proper care, dental crowns can last 5-15 years. But what exactly does proper care mean? How do you care for your new crown once it’s been placed?

Dental crowns require the same care that your natural teeth require. Make sure that you’re:

  • Brushing at least twice a day
  • Flossing once a day
  • Coming in twice a year for exams and cleanings

These are the most impactful things you can do to care for your crown, and it will benefit your overall oral health in the process. But there are also other steps you can take to care for crown and make it last.

Wear a Mouthguard

If you grind or clench your teeth at night, wearing a night guard can help protect your crown. The excess pressure from grinding and clenching can eventually lead to chipping or even fracturing. 

A night guard will protect your teeth by putting a barrier between your upper and lower teeth.

Dental Nightguard
Dental Nighguard

Adopt Good Habits

Once your crown is placed, it’s important to adopt good habits. 

  • Avoid chewing your nails, eating ice or biting hard foods 
  • Avoid acidic or staining foods that may damage your crown
  • When brushing, take care to clean the area where the tooth meets the gumline

Adopting these good habits can help extend the lifespan of your crown.

Take Care of Restorations or Repairs ASAP

If your crown does chip or fracture, make sure that you schedule an appointment as soon as possible. We may be able to restore or repair the crown.

If you don’t repair your crown, the problem may progress. A small chip can turn into a large fracture, or the entire crown may come loose. The longer you wait to fix the problem, the greater the chances that you will need a more costly treatment.

Final Thoughts

Dental crowns can help restore a tooth’s function and appearance. If you have a fractured tooth or severe decay, then a crown may save your natural tooth. But we can only perform this procedure if you have enough natural tooth structure. 

The good news it that there are many options if you don’t have enough tooth, and there are also alternative treatments that can help restore your smile.

We’ll discuss all of your options with you when you come in for your exam.

To learn more about dental crowns and how we can help restore your smile, book an appointment today!

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Dr. Gurpreet Sidhu - Dentist at Lighthouse Dental Centre and Blue Water Dental
Dr. Gurpreet Sidhu

With nearly two decades of experience, Dr. Sidhu enjoys helping his patients learn about dentistry. Knowledge is meant to be improved, challenged and shared.

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