In dentistry, a crown is a cap or covering fitted over part of a tooth that’s damaged from:

  • breakage
  • tooth decay
  • a root canal
  • a large filling

Dentists may also use a crown to improve the appearance of teeth with a discolored filling or to hold a bridge or denture in place.

Crowns may fully or partially cover a tooth all the way up to the gum line, depending on the purpose and the health of the tooth.

Read on to learn about the different types of crowns, including gold and gold alloy.

There are several types of crowns available today. Each has its own pros and cons. Here’s how they stack up:

Gold and gold alloy

Gold has been used in dentistry for tooth repair for more than 4,000 years. Dentists today most often combine gold with other metals, such as palladium, nickel, or chromium. This increases the strength of the crown and reduces its cost.

Gold and gold alloy crowns may appear silver or gold in color. These crowns rarely chip or break. They don’t wear down easily and require minimal tooth removal to be applied. These crowns are very durable and can last for decades.

But with their metallic color, gold alloys are the least natural-looking crown material. Some people choose to put gold alloy crowns on molars that are out of sight.

Porcelain

Porcelain crowns are a popular type of all-ceramic crown. They’re the most natural-looking option but aren’t as strong as some other kinds of crowns.

Because they look so natural, porcelain crowns are most often used on front teeth, which tend to be the most visible to others.

Porcelain bonded to precious metal

Porcelain is bonded to a base made of precious metal, such as gold. These crowns are fairly strong and natural looking. But sometimes the metal beneath the porcelain cap is visible as a dark line.

These crowns have weak spots that can chip or break. They tend to wear out the teeth opposite them. Many people choose these crowns for front or back teeth.

All ceramic

An all-ceramic crown is often made out of zirconium dioxide, a strong material. It often matches the color of the surrounding teeth very well.

People with metal allergies can wear this type of crown comfortably with no risks of an adverse reaction.

However, all-ceramic crowns aren’t usually as strong as crowns made of porcelain bonded to precious metal. They may also wear down opposite teeth more than metal or resin crowns.

Pressed ceramic

A pressed ceramic crown is topped with porcelain but has a base made from some other type of ceramic, such as zirconium dioxide. It gives it more strength than an all-ceramic crown. This makes the crown very durable while maintaining the more natural appearance of porcelain.

These crowns tend to last longer than those made entirely from ceramic or porcelain.

All resin

All-resin crowns are made from a mix of nontoxic tooth-colored plastic and glass beads.

These are the most affordable crown option, but they also wear down more easily than other types of crowns. Compared to crowns made of porcelain bonded to precious metal, they’re much more likely to break.

In many cases, all-resin crowns are used as a temporary crown rather than a long-term, permanent crown.

While side effects from a gold alloy crown are rare, they can affect some people. Some possible side effects include:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • lip and mouth pain
  • gum swelling and irritation
  • lesions in the mouth (oral lichenoid reaction)
  • allergic reactions, particularly common with gold-nickel alloys

Some researchers say the use of gold alloys in dentistry is linked to the risk of certain health conditions, such as oral cancer. But that connection appears weak and isn’t well-understood today.

Researchers recommend using metal alloys that resist corrosion. Gold is very resistant to corrosion.

Without insurance, it may cost $2,500 per gold crown and anywhere between $800 and $1,500 per crown in general. With insurance, about 50 percent of the cost of the entire procedure may be covered.

Some dental insurance plans do fully or partially cover the cost of crowns. However, coverage may be limited or may not cover the procedure if the work is considered cosmetic.

If your crown is needed to maintain your oral health, such as when covering a root canal or a decayed or filled tooth, the procedure will usually be covered.

The total price of the crown depends on your insurance plan, type of crown, dental health, and where you live. The entire procedure involves:

  • dental X-rays
  • a physical examination
  • the crown itself
  • crown application
  • usually at least one follow-up appointment

When it comes to capping teeth, many crown options are available. Gold and gold alloy crowns offer strength, durability, and a good value.

However, with newer materials on the market that create a more natural appearance, you may want to consider other options. Talk to your dentist to see which type of crown is best for your needs.