Dental crowns can be used to protect a tooth that has been severely affected by decay, undergone root canal therapy, or become damaged by trauma.

Thanks to advancements in dental technology, patients requiring dental crowns have a variety of options to choose from. But which one should you choose? And why might your dentist recommend one option over another? 

Here’s what you need to know about lab created versus same day crowns.

What are same day crowns? 

Same day crowns, also called chairside crowns or CEREC crowns, are made using computer-aided design and manufacturing technology. After cleaning and reshaping the tooth receiving treatment, your dentist uses an intraoral camera, a slim toothbrush-sized wand, to take precise measurements of your bite. The images taken using this camera are then pieced together by a computer to create a 3-D replica of your bite. Next, these 3-D measurements are sent to the in-office milling machine to fabricate your crown out of a ceramic block. When the crown fabrication is complete, it is bonded to the prepared tooth for a strong, permanent tooth restoration. The entire process is done in one appointment in just a few hours.  

What are lab created crowns? 

Lab created crowns require an offsite facility, a fabrication lab, to create your dental crown. As a result, this process requires multiple appointments and the placement of a temporary crown while you wait for the final product to arrive. 

Measurements for this process are taken in one of two ways. The dentist will either use a dental putty to take an impression of your bite or, as with same day crowns, an intraoral camera. Whichever method is used, the dental mold or digital impression will need to be sent off-site to the lab for fabrication. The in-lab crown creation process and shipping of the finished prosthetic can take between three and four weeks. In the meantime, your dentist will place a temporary crown to protect the tooth being treated. Once the lab created crown has arrived, you will have your second appointment for the crown to be permanently placed.  

Less Wait Time, Fewer Appointments

The biggest difference between lab created and same day crowns is the fabrication process. Same day crowns have turned a restoration procedure that once took weeks to complete into a process that now spans just a few hours. 

Lab created crowns require at least two appointments, one to have the tooth prepared and your bite measured, and a second to have it bonded in place. And if your temporary crown falls off or becomes loose in the weeks between appointments, as they all too often are prone to do, you will need to come back in to have the temporary crown secured back in place. 

Temporary Crowns

Temporary crowns are notorious for being unsightly, uncomfortable, and for having the pesky habit of falling off well before the next appointment. However, they are still a necessary part of the lab created crown process as they protect the tooth mid-restoration from decay, infection, and sensitivity. Because same day crowns are completed in just one appointment, there is no need for a temporary crown.

Materials Used 

Lab created crowns can be made from metal alloys, all porcelain, or porcelain fused to metal. Metal alloys, while strong and long lasting, are not the most aesthetically pleasing option due to their obvious dark, metallic appearance. Even porcelain fused to metal, a more natural appearing option, can eventually reveal a dark line along the gums as they recede, exposing the metal base of the crown. 

Same day crowns are milled from an all-ceramic block. Ceramic is a material that very closely mimics both the coloring and translucency of your natural teeth. Ceramic is also very strong. This allows your dentist to create a natural looking restoration that is thin yet durable. The thinner the dental crown, the less your dentist needs to reshape the natural tooth to create space for placement. Preserving as much of the your tooth as possible is always our goal in helping a patient maintain optimum oral health

A Virtually Perfect Fit

No more gross, goopy dental putty impressions! Thanks to intraoral cameras, we can now take digital impressions of your bite for precise 3-D measurements. Not only does this make for a far more comfortable experience for you as the patient, it also allows your dental team to create a crown that has a virtually perfect fit.  

In a lab, even if the intraoral camera is used instead of dental putty, the measurements from the digital impression are still used to create a mold that is then used to fabricate the crown. This extra step creates a loss in the precision of the measurements as well as more room for error to occur.