A permanent crown can be shaved down to fit your mouth better but there is a limit to how much you can adjust the tooth cap. So, if your new crown doesn't feel quite right, it can be adjusted but you do need to see your dentist to have it done.
You don't have to live with any discomfort or imperfections. The adjustment appointment is typically very short, requiring only 10-15 minutes at most.
Can you really shave it down?
Of course permanent crowns can be shaved down because it is made of porcelain or a ceramic material. Those materials aren't indestructible so they can be chipped and ground down. It's similar to how you can chip and grind down a porcelain plate!
In fact, most of the dental crowns these days are milled from a solid rectangular block of ceramic. Basically before it arrives as a finished product in your mouth, it was originally a block of porcelain.
A milling machine will shave and carve it down into the shape of a tooth to match your adjacent dentition. To better explain what we mean by "milling" your crown with a machine, please watch the video below.
If your tooth cap was shaved down to the shape it was now, that means it can be FURTHER shaved down by your dentist. Sounds reasonable doesn't it?
How your dentist does it
Once the crown has been glued in permanently in your mouth, your dentist isn't going to remove it and reshape it with the milling machine. That is impractical.
Instead, your dentist can simply shave down any uncomfortable or high biting spots on the crown with his high speed handpiece. This involves using a fine diamond bur to grind away the excess porcelain.
What to expect during adjustment:
No numbing or anesthesia is necessary.
Bite down on a blue articulating paper to mark the high bite spots.
Grind down the crown with a fine diamond bur.
Polish the tooth once its finished adjusting.
The entire process should take 10-15 minutes or even less but it depends on how much adjusting you need. The great part of this is that you don't need any numbing because it shouldn't hurt.
Types of crowns that are adjustable:
Porcelain fused to metal
Gold or all metal
Any type of ceramic
We've created a video to show you exactly how the process is done.
Can I shave it down at home?
Unfortunately, you can't shave down your own crown at home because you don't have the proper instruments and equipment to do so.
At home tools that will not work:
Sandpaper at the hardware store
All of those are too weak to even make a dent in your tooth cap. The way your dentist shaves it down is with a DIAMOND bur that is spinning at tens of thousands of RPM. You're unable to replicate that kind of drilling power with manual finger strength.
Reasons to have crown adjusted
The crowns may look perfect on the stone model but it may fit and look different in your mouth. In order to get it to fit more comfortable or look better, adjustments will be necessary and that means it should be shaved down.
Conditions requiring crown adjustments:
High bite: When you bite down it feels like you're hitting that tooth too hard. In dental terms, we call this high occlusion.
Too tight: Perhaps you have trouble flossing or if you feel too much pressure in between the teeth. The in between area of the crown will need to be relieved. This is interproximal adjusting.
Long crown: A longer crown may not be noticeable for back teeth but for a front tooth, it can be glaringly obvious. You can shave it down to make the length match the adjacent teeth.
Looks bulky: Does the crown feel too big or bulky? Perhaps some of that girth needs to be slimmed down.
However, just because you can shave it down it doesn't mean you can infinitely adjust it because there are limits!
Crown adjustment limits
Despite your dentist being able to shave it down, there are limits to how much shaving they can do. Each crown has a certain thickness of porcelain and if you shave off too much you can either weaken it or drill a hole through it.
What happens if you adjust too much:
Weaken structural integrity. You do know that a crown with a thicker layer of porcelain is stronger right? If you thin it out too much, the structural integrity will become compromised. What may happen is the tooth cap may crack if you bite down on something hard.
Puncture a hole. If you shave away TOO much of the ceramic, you can puncture a hole through the crown. If that happens you'd have ruined the crown and need a new one.
Typically, your dentist will stop you if they think that you're shaving away too much.
What if I need a LOT of adjustments?
If you need a lot of adjustment for your permanent crown, you may just need the entire crown to be redone. The lab may need to remake the entire thing and hopefully the second time it will fit and look better.
If you do need it redone, you will need to repeat the entire crown procedure. You will need to be numb and the process will take two appointment visits. Here is what to expect for your second rodeo with this tooth cap.
Visit 1 - Remove old crown
This visit will take about 45-60 minutes.
Administer local anesthesia.
Cut the crown off by drilling it off.
Re-prepare the tooth by shaving it down more to create more space.
Pack cord around the gums to push it away.
Take an impression (mold) of your teeth.
Choose a tooth shade.
Create a temporary crown and glue it in with temporary glue.
Adjust and polish the temp.
Visit 2 - Cement new crown
This appointment will take about 30-45 minutes.
Remove temp crown.
Clean off residual temporary cement.
Try in permanent crown and adjust it by shaving down any uncomfortable spots.
Permanently glue it in.
Polish it and you're done!
Hopefully that reminds you what you can expect to go through if you needed the process redone. The second crown appointment will take less time than the first visit.
Yes, crowns can be shaved down and your dentist adjusts it by grinding away the porcelain with a diamond bur. While you can alter the appearance of your new tooth cap, you need to be mindful that there is a limit to how much you can shave it down.
Nonetheless, this isn't something you can do at home so schedule an appointment with your dentist to get it done.