Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

September 6, 2018

Matching the color on a crown for a front tooth


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Hi Dr. Hall,
I had a root canal done on my front tooth over 10 years ago. In the past few years I had noticed a blue discoloration at the top of the tooth. After trying internal bleaching, my dentist ended up doing a crown.

The first crown that came back from the lab looked very white. He redid it. The next tooth, which is in my mouth now, looks better but doesn’t match the other front tooth. The dentist permanently cemented it in, but when I got home and took some selfies I was unhappy with how unnaturally white it looks.

The dentist will give it another try but my question is — should I let him try again or go to someone else who specializes in cosmetic dentistry? I now live in Princeton, NJ and my dentist is in Brooklyn. Cost is a factor.
Thanks,
Ronnie

Ronnie,
Doing a crown on a single front tooth is a tricky procedure. The slightest variation in color between the two front teeth is usually very noticeable. And it isn’t just the overall color—any tooth has multiple colors in it. Even expert cosmetic dentists will often have multiple try-ins before they get the crown to match perfectly. When I was in practice, I charged about 40% more for crowning a single front tooth because we would typically send it back to the lab three or four times until we got it perfect and I would charge the extra fee because of all the extra appointments. Dentists with poor cosmetic dentistry skills sometimes ask patients to crown both front teeth in order to get the color right.

That your dentist would think that the crown would look right after one or two trips to the lab shows either inexperience or a low level of commitment to excellent cosmetic dentistry. I’m not meaning to imply condemnation with that comment because that is typical of the overwhelming majority of dentists—maybe 98% of them. So yes, if you want this done so that your two front teeth match perfectly, you need to raise your sights and go to an excellent cosmetic dentist such as we recommend. There are several excellent ones within reasonable driving distance of Princeton, say 15-30 miles.

However, depending on how big a factor cost is for you, and if your dentist is willing to work with you to get this right for no extra charge, you may want to stick with this dentist to save the money of having another dentist start over with you. And, I would add, if you are willing to make several more trips back to Brooklyn. To help the process, you or the dentist should get hold of a good digital camera that is capable of taking a clear photograph of the new crown in place next to your natural tooth under outside light, such as right next to a window. That will go a long way toward helping the ceramist pin down the right color. And be sure that the crown is only temporarily cemented until you have seen it under various lighting conditions.

If you want perfection—a crown so natural that you can’t distinguish it from the real tooth next to it—you need the expert cosmetic dentist. But if you are willing to accept some compromise of that ideal in order to save money—try letting your dentist have some more tries to get this closer.
– Dr. Hall

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

April 23, 2018

What to do about gray crowns


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Hi Dr. Hall,

Due to a recent fall, I broke my 2 front teeth as well as the one to the left of my front teeth. I had 3 root canals and 3 porcelain crowns placed. I’ve had 2 attempts as the first permanent set were off in color, too big and thick. The 2nd permanent set matched in color and were closer in size and thickness to my natural shape. After they were permanently cemented they all had a grey hue close to the gumline on the tooth. The dentist has reluctantly agreed to redo my crowns stating he would try to make sure the core is as white as possible. I’m not sure what to think or if he can even fix the issue because he did say he couldn’t promise this issue would be resolved? What are your suggestions? Thank you!
– Nancy from San Antonio

Nancy,
Your problem is simply that your dentist doesn’t know enough about cosmetic dentistry.

One of the issues that family dentists have the most trouble with is color, so the problem he is having is not unusual.

If you have two or more crowns on your front teeth, this is a pretty simple color task for an expert cosmetic dentist. The fact that these crowns were too big and thick and the color was off on the first try makes me worry about the level of skill here. On the second try, having them be too gray at the gumline is not a great confidence builder, either. This isn’t a difficult situation. My advice would be to be fussy. It is possible to get the color and shape exactly right and in the right hands, no one should be able to tell that these are crowns on your front teeth and not your real teeth. Don’t settle for anything less than that.

You’re not giving me any clinical details about the types of crowns we’re dealing with, and there are several possibilities for getting this grayness that you’re seeing. Let me make an assumption of what I think is the most probable scenario. My best guess is that your dentist is using pure ceramic crowns of one type or another with a metal post and core to reinforce the inside of the tooth, and the gray color of the metal is showing through the translucent ceramic. There are several ways to deal with this. If I were doing your case, I would have used a fiberglass post and a composite core that was close to the color of your natural teeth. That’s the easiest way to get a natural translucency to the crowns. If we’re stuck with the metal core, then what I would have done would have been to bond an opaque layer on top of the metal to block out the metallic color and then bond the crown on top of that opaque layer. Another option would be to give clear instructions to the laboratory technician about the color and extent of the metal core, and let the technician incorporate opaquing into the crown.

The problem with many family dentists is that they don’t understand translucency and the impact of interior colors on the external appearance of the tooth.

Your case bothers me, though. You’ve had this accident, and you would think that you should be able to go to your family dentist and he would know enough to fix this. Or, if he didn’t, that he would know enough to refer you to someone with more expertise in cosmetic dentistry. But that is the state of cosmetic dentistry in America. Dental academia trivializes cosmetic concerns and the powers that be in the profession are adamant that cosmetic dentistry isn’t a legitimate specialty. If there were a higher level of respect in the profession for aesthetic skills, there would be more inclination to either refer these cases to a specialist, or maybe to train general dentists better in these color skills and you wouldn’t have situations like yours. Your case doesn’t require a high level of aesthetic skills—only a moderate level. The fact that your dentist has missed this twice and now is unsure that he can fix the color shows a fundamental lack of understanding of basic color management.

Dr. Hall

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

June 10, 2016

Getting porcelain veneers and crowns to match


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Dr. Hall,
My question is, how hard is it to get all veneers to match, when the tooth stubs are dark. I’m getting one crown, and the rest of the smile is porcelain veneers. In my case, the crown looks whiter than the adjacent veneers. Shouldn’t there be a way to make them more matched? Love my dentist, but I think it could be a dental lab issue. I paid a lot of $ & I’ve seen many cases where everything matches. Thanks!!
– Carol from Pittsburgh

Carol,
This is an issue that a lot of family dentists have trouble with. Dental schools tend to trivialize cosmetic dentistry and teach that it is easy to do–any dentist can do this. But there are some basic color concepts that they really don’t teach the dentists. And then the vast majority of dentists don’t have a passion for appearance-related dentistry, so they don’t take the trouble to get this extra training.

Porcelain is naturally translucent, just like enamel, which makes it an excellent dental material. But porcelain veneers are thin, and porcelain crowns are several times thicker than veneers. So if the underlying teeth are dark, as yours are, that dark color is going to shine through the porcelain veneers much more than it would with the crown. That is the basic problem here.

There are two basic ways around this. One way is to accomplish this with the porcelain. Another is for the dentist to apply the opaque to the teeth before sending the case to the lab.

Opaquers can be added to the porcelain, but this requires quite a bit of skill on the part of the laboratory, to make the entire case turn out correctly. If the crown is translucent, the veneers need to be opaqued in a way that makes them appear just as translucent as the crown. It can be done, but is tricky. It also requires good communication between the dentist and the laboratory–the dentist needs to either provide photos of the prepared teeth or a detailed description of their color so that the laboratory can make the proper adjustments. There are excellent esthetic dental laboratories that can do this well.

In my practice, I preferred dealing with the opacity issue myself, as part of the tooth preparation. I would shave a little extra from the dark teeth and then apply an opaque layer of composite onto the teeth. The deeper the opaque layer is, the more room is available to create the needed translucent effect with the porcelain. The composite bonds chemically to the porcelain veneer luting cement giving a strong, attractive result.

– Dr. Hall

Do you have a comment or a question or anything else to add? We’d love to hear from you. Enter your comment below.

Click here to ask Dr. Hall a question of your own.

About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

May 23, 2016

A crack in my porcelain crown. Is this an emergency?


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Hi Dr. Hall,
I have had porcelain crowns on my front teeth for at least 16 yrs. One of them has always had a tiny defect that you could not see with the naked eye. Now I can see it and feel it. I am afraid it will break while I’m in public and I’ll lose it altogether. It is a horizontal fracture line. Near the bottom. I am not opposed to replacing but just wonder if I need to do it as an emergency.
Thanks for your help.
– Ruth from Ohio

Ruth,
I would find an expert cosmetic dentist and get the crown replaced. I wouldn’t call it an emergency, but this is a defect that I suspect will one day in the not-too-distant future result in a complete break.

You say this crown has always had this defect, but you couldn’t see it with the naked eye. Teeth and porcelain can have these lines that we call craze lines, and they are ordinarily of no particular concern. What gets my attention now with your situation is that you say you can now not only see this with the unaided eye, but you can feel it. So there has been some movement here resulting in a palpable discrepancy in the surface.

Depending on what your cosmetic dentist sees when these teeth are examined, he or she may recommend replacing all the front crowns, as they are all old. But if the other crowns look fine, there should be no need for that. See what you are told.

If you replace just one crown, that is going to require excellent color-matching skill on the part of your dentist. Be wary if the dentist tells you that the only way to guarantee a perfect match is to replace more than one crown–that’s a way for them to admit they don’t have the skill to match the new crown to the old ones.

– Dr. Hall

Question and answer go here.

Do you have a comment or a question or anything else to add? We’d love to hear from you. Enter your comment below.

Click here to ask Dr. Hall a question of your own.

About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

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