Most dentists will agree that it's better to save a tooth than extract it. But for teeth that are broken or heavily decayed, a tooth filling usually won't do. A dental crown may be necessary to preserve your tooth and help prevent it from further damage. And in some cases, a post and crown will be required to keep your restoration in place.
A post crown is used to treat a badly decayed tooth that doesn't have enough tooth structure left to support a dental crown. Post crowns are most often used following a root canal procedure. A dental post and crown is also used when a tooth is not sturdy enough to hold a crown on its own -- for example, when a tooth has broken off at the gum line.
Prepare to Be Crowned
There are three parts to your post crown -- the post, the core and the crown (in fact, a post crown is sometimes referred to as a post core crown). A dental post is a metal rod that provides an anchor for the core, which keeps the crown in place. The core is a filling material used to build up tooth structure and provide a basis for the dental crown, a porcelain restoration that resembles your tooth.
Following your root canal procedure, your dentist will prepare you for your post and crown by removing some of the filling material from one of your tooth's roots. The canal will then be enlarged and shaped to make room for the post, which is designed to stick out slightly above the gum line. Once the post is cemented into the canal, the core is built up around it and shaped to give the post crown a secure base. Impressions are taken and sent to a dental laboratory to create your dental crown. After your restoration returns from the lab, your dentist will attach it to the core with cement to complete your post crown procedure.
Getting To The Core of Post Crowns
Your post crown will always need a core in order to be successful, but a core can be used with or without a post to keep a dental crown in place. It depends on whether a post is needed to build up the core. If you've had a root canal, a post core crown will most likely be used. A root canal involves removing the tooth's pulp and nerves, leaving empty root chambers and too little tooth structure in which to create the core. But if the pulp chamber is still intact, your dentist may be able to build up a core without the post.
Post Crown Care
After your post crown is complete, you'll be able to resume normal daily activities, including eating and drinking. You may feel some sensitivity or pressure when biting, which should subside after a few days. If the post crown causes you pain or doesn't fit right or falls off completely, contact your dentist as soon as possible. Your post and crown may need to be refitted or remade.
Your dental post and crown should be cared for in the same way you care for your natural teeth. That means practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly for dental checkups and cleanings. Post crowns can last up to 15 years if cared for properly.