Halloween is almost upon us, with fun and silly costumes of ghosts, goblins, witches and pirates. Thinking about pirates may conjure up entertaining images of eye patches, treasure chests and swashbuckling battles on the high seas. But have you taken a good look at their teeth? Crooked, rotting, pirate teeth are ugly and unhealthy, but gold crowns can provide strength and flair. Could a pirate with a black eye patch, a hook, a peg leg and a gold tooth be healthy? Arrrrgh!
Gold crowns for pirates and landlubbers
A crown (sometimes called a cap) is an excellent solution to restore a damaged tooth. The crown completely covers and holds a tooth together to prevent a tooth from fracturing. Crowns also prevent plaque and bacteria from easily attacking the tooth. A crown gives strength to the remaining tooth structure and gives the tooth a smooth, natural shape.
Gold crowns have been available since at least the mid-1700s, a time that coincides with the “golden age” of piracy between the 1680s and 1730s. Gold crowns are basically unchanged except for the techniques used to prepare the tooth for the crown, including vast improvements in the drilling and impression methods. Porcelain crowns are a much more recent phenomenon, from the 1960’s and they are continually changing and improving with new technologies. Porcelain crowns have become stronger and more esthetic over recent years. Currently computer-generated, milled zirconium crowns are extremely strong and have an amazingly accurate fit.
Crowns are recommended to:
Replace a filling, especially if there isn’t enough remaining tooth structure to support a new filling.
Fix a decayed tooth with weak remaining tooth structure.
Protect and hold a cracked tooth together.
Restore a tooth after root canal therapy. Root canal teeth become brittle and can fracture.
Cover a dental implant or hold a bridge in place.
Provide an alternative for covering discolored teeth.
Rebuild overly worn, ground down teeth.
Types of Crowns
Gold crowns can last the longest of all dental materials. I have seen gold crowns that have lasted for over 50 years. But gold is a soft metal, so it is often worn away and a hole forms through the top of the crown. This happens particularly fast to a person who is a heavy grinder. Gold crowns are cast and fit amazingly well due to the property of being malleable. This is why gold has been used to make beautiful jewelry for centuries. Gold is recommended when the opposing tooth is made of gold for even wearing.
Zirconium is now replacing gold in most cases, due to its great strength, better wearing resistance and because it is tooth colored. Zirconium crowns are computer designed and milled to a precision fit. I recommend zirconium crowns on back teeth, on non-aesthetic areas of the mouth and for patients that grind or clench their teeth.
Porcelain crowns are beautiful with natural tooth translucency, but being made of glass, they are much weaker and can fracture. They are also fabricated from a computer generated milling machine to fit accurately. Due to their weaker but more beautiful look, they are usually reserved for the front teeth.
I allow each patient to make their own decision on the type of crown material after learning the advantages and disadvantages. Many of my patients don’t want the bling of gold anywhere, others want gold on the back teeth for strength and a few others want the “bling, bling” of gold on front teeth – arrrgh, the pirate.
Dustin Hoffman’s Crowns
An actor can take advantage of temporary, cosmetic procedures to bond veneers to his real teeth, making them look dramatically different. Prior to the advent of veneers in the 1980’s, some actors would have crowns made for acting parts. Dustin Hoffman had his front teeth ground down to look the part of a 120-year-old man in the 1970’s movie Little Big Man. He then had cosmetic crowns made that could be removed and changed for different movie roles. That is dedication to a job!
Most actors and actresses have bright white Hollywood smiles
from teeth whitening, veneers or crowns. But it has always bothered me when I see an actor playing the part of a nasty pirate or vicious bad guy with perfect white, obviously fake teeth. Of course, I always zero in on teeth and smiles. What can I say; I am a passionate dentist. I admire Hoffman’s dedication to dental detail, though his painful role in Marathon Man set dentistry back about ten years.
Pirate teeth for Halloween
Pirates and other people who have neglected their teeth are only postponing the inevitable. The situation will only get worse. An untreated tooth becomes more susceptible to bacteria, which can invade the tooth pulp and cause increasing decay, infection and pain. If the tooth breaks or needs to be extracted, this can escalate into problems with shifting teeth, a receding jawbone, gingivitis, periodontal disease and even more serious problems.
The best ways to minimize your chances of having teeth that look like a pirate’s are to brush and floss daily, maintain a healthy diet, and have regular dental checkups. However, masquerading your healthy teeth, as dark ugly pirates’ teeth can be fun on Halloween. Arrrgh!
Join the fun and participate on Halloween with some fake teeth or big lips. Look for my gnarly slipover front teeth, Austin Power’s teeth, on Halloween.
Enjoy Life and Keep Smiling!
George Malkemus has a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@ malkemusdds.com. Visit Dr. Malkemus’ Web site at http://www.malkemusdds.com.