The cusps of the tooth are the pointed edges along the uppermost surface of the crown. Cusps play important roles in chewing and holding your food. But the positioning and bite force can make cusps prone to damage. Cusp damage can be treated using fillings, bonds, or dental crowns. The type and severity of the damage can help determine which is the right treatment choice for your tooth.
Here are three factors that can help you and a general or cosmetic dentist, like Artistic Dentistry by Gerard Wasselle, DMD, determine if a dental crown is right for treating your cusp damage.
Minimal Cusp Damage
Minimal cusp damage might not require treatment at all. If the damage created a rough edge, your dentist can file that area smooth. Or if the damage is causing cosmetic concerns, your dentist might use a bond to correct the problem.
Dental bonds are made out of a flexible resin that's formed over the front of the natural tooth to create a more attractive tooth front. The bond can hide the cusp damage while leaving most of the natural tooth exposed. A dental crown, which tends to cover most of the tooth, would likely be overkill for such minimal damage.
Narrow, Deep Cusp Damage
Is the damage to and around the cusp narrow in width but deep into the dentin? Your dentist might recommend a filling, as the flexible material used is better able to get into a deep hole to seal the tooth shut. And the filling will leave most of the natural tooth exposed, which will make chewing still feel natural.
An exception might be if the tooth has exterior cosmetic damage and/or stands at risk of further damage due to trauma or inherent weakness. In these cases, your dentist might want to use a dental crown to provide a protective, tooth-colored layer around the exterior of your tooth.
Widespread Cusp Damage
Widespread cusp damage that can also be tied to trauma in other areas of the tooth are best treated with a crown. Your dentist can still file away rough edges but will then craft a custom-fit crown that will fit down over your tooth to create the appearance of a new dentin layer and new cusps.
Dental crowns used for widespread damage are often the final line of defense against damage so severe that the tooth's life is compromised. The crown might also be paired with a root canal procedure to ensure that the tooth's interior damage is managed before the exterior damage is covered.