Updated: Apr 19
After your crown procedure your dentist made a temporary crown for you but why does it look horrible? It just looks terrible and certainly does not instill confidence in you for what the permanent one will look like. Is it supposed to be this ugly?
The appearance of them is a little concerning but your dentist assures you that the final one will look much better. Can you trust what they say because you're having doubts and do you need to find a different dentist?
This article will explain why temporary crowns don't exactly look the best and help assuage your fears for what to expect. However, we are going to offer a couple of recommendations on how to improve the looks of them.
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Why temporary crowns don't usually look good
As their name implies, temporary crowns are NOT the final product. They're merely a transitional protective covering for the tooth until the permanent one can be fabricated by the dental laboratory. For this reason alone, it is often not worthwhile nor cost effective to spend a lot of money and time making it.
In other words, the temporary crowns are only meant to be worn for about 2-3 weeks on average. After that they will get disposed of and never to be used again. Once again that re-enforces the argument that its not worthwhile to spend a lot of resources to make a disposable product to be used in the interim. That is a big reason as to why they tend to not look the best. They'll get thrown out in a few weeks anyway! What a waste.
Aside from them being only a temporary product, here are three additional reasons as to why the temporary crowns look horrible:
They're made chairside in only a few minutes
The crown appointment is not a full day endeavor, it'll most likely be around an hour or so at most if you're doing a single one. The vast majority of that time is spent preparing the tooth in order to take an impression of it. The lab will make the permanent one from the impression.
Your dentist will spend most likely just 5-10 minutes making the temporary crown. That means, there isn't a lot of time allocated to making it look pretty by any means. A common method of making it is with the block temp technique, where your dentist literally carves it out of a block of acrylic.
Here is a video showing how it is done.
If you want it to look much prettier, your dentist will need to keep you in the chair for a lot longer and work on it. Similar to how a sculptor who spends more time sculpting will end up with a better looking sculpture. A better looking temporary will require a lot more time than that.
Would you like to spend 3-4 hours at the dentist just for a single temporary crown to look good? It doesn't seem that practical nor do patients even want it.
Patients generally want to spend as little time at the dentist as possible. They want to get in and get out because they've other places to go. They're also usually not too enthused about dental treatment either. These are contributing factors to why the temps don't look that good.
Doesn't permit custom color matching
For the temporary crowns, they're made from stock tooth shades and color. That means you can't customize them like what the permanent can do. For the permanent one you can do custom shades and also add in custom detailing but that is not possible for the temps.
There is also the fact that your dentist may only have a couple of temporary colors on hand. It's simply not practical nor possible to stock every shade of tooth. Most offices will pick about a handful of the most commonly used ones and that would be it.
Here is a picture showing the entire spectrum of teeth colors:
That is quite a range of coloring but that is not all of them because some patient's actual color will fall outside of that spectrum. If your tooth looks nothing like the plethora of options above, it WILL require custom shading. For the really tough cases, we have to send the patient to the dental lab to have the coloring done in person.
Just so that we are completely transparent, the temporary crown manufacturers don't actually make that many colors. They only fabricate a couple of shades and not the entire range of color that you see in the photo above.
Your dentist doesn't want it to be perfect
You may be surprised but we actually do not want the temporary to look perfect. Most of us actually strive for some imperfection with the temporary crown because that imperfection encourages the patient to return for the permanent crown.
Yes, you heard that right it encourages you to come back to get the permanent one glued in. Throughout our career, we've had quite a few cases where the temporary crown looks so good that the patient never returns for the final one. You would think that never happens but it does and our experience proves it. Every dentist has some final crowns sitting on their desk for years that were never inserted into the patient's mouth.
For this reason alone, we don't mind having it look imperfect. In fact, if it looks too good, we may add in a slight imperfection so that it reminds you it is NOT the final product and that you SHOULD return for the permanent one.
How to make temporary crowns look better
Despite all of the reasons above as to why they look so bad, there are ways to make the temporary crowns look better. It often involves additional expenses, appointments, and preparation prior to the actual crown procedure.
Here are two additional procedures that not only ensure that your temporary crowns look better but also drastically increase the cost of getting a crown. They're not part of the usual crown procedure but you CAN ask your dentist for them. These are reserved for situations such as when you get an entire row of veneers or a mouth full of them.
Get a diagnostic wax up
Before you even touch the tooth to start the crown procedure, you can ask your dentist for a "diagnostic wax up". This is basically a mock up of your teeth in wax of how the final crown will look like. What it will do is give you an idea of what they look like.
What is the great thing about getting it waxed up beforehand is that you get to see what the dental ceramist thinks will look good on you. If you like how it looks, they will copy the shape and color of it for the final crown. If you don't like how the wax up looks, you can send it back and ask them to make changes to it.
This will definitely help set expectations because you'll already know how it is going to end up without needing the actual procedure to be done. This is in contrast to getting the crowns done without a wax up where you don't know what the permanent one will even look like at all!
The downside to this is that most dental insurances will not cover this additional procedure. All diagnostic wax ups will be an additional out of pocket cost for you. If you thought that the crown itself already cost too much, you'll need to pay more on top of that in order to get this mock up of your teeth.
Last but not least, this step does add at least an additional TWO appointments to your crown procedure, depending on if you're satisfied with how it looks.
Take a mold of the teeth and then send it out to the lab.
Once you return, you will go over what it looks like and see if you like it.
If you don't like it, it'll need to be sent back with suggestions and that'll add even more visits to the overall treatment.
Order custom temporary crowns prior to starting procedure
After the wax-up, there is another additional procedure which you can ask for to make the temporary look better. You can ask the lab to make a custom temporary crown based on the waxed model.
The diagnostic wax up is just a wax up, it does not come with the temporary crowns! Its purely meant for you to see what it looks like. If you want the actual temporary crowns that look like it, you'll need to ask the lab to make it for you.
In case you were wondering, yes it does cost more. This will be an additional expense on top of the wax up that you'll be paying for. You'll typically be charged based on per tooth so the more that you need the more it'll cost.
Last but not least, this does add an additional appointment to your overall treatment. You need to ask the lab to make it for you and that takes one extra visit.
Thus, in the grand scheme of things getting both a wax up and custom temporary crowns will add approximately 3-4 visits to the overall treatment. The traditional crown appointment takes 2 visits so that would bring this to about 5-6 visits total. That is a three times increase in the amount of time needed to make a crown. Don't forget that it'll cost a lot more as well.
Is the permanent crown really going to look any better?
Yes, the final crown will definitely look better than the temporary crown. The technician who makes it is a master ceramist and they get to spend two weeks making it for you. This is in contrast to your dentist only having about 5-10 minutes to make your temporary. Of course, with the additional days of sculpting your tooth it will definitely look better than the temporary.
In addition to that the lab has the full spectrum of tooth shades so you'll get a much better color match. If you thought the shape of your temporary looked good but the color was off, this will correct for that.
The appearance of the porcelain just surpasses the acrylic that the temporaries are made out of. The temporary material just does not have a life-like appearance to them.
You can compare it to the temporary crown material, where there is no translucency and life-like appearance to them. The material just looks more dull and flat in comparison to porcelain. That is the reason why the crown material of choice is porcelain and not acrylic.
Related content: Read our more in depth guide on temporary crowns.
Temporary crowns usually don't look the best because of practicality reasons. Your dentist prioritizes keeping the costs as low as possible for you. They also try to minimize the amount of appointments that you need for the procedure.
However, if you want the temporaries to look better there are additional procedures which you can request from your dentist. You can get a diagnostic wax up and custom temporaries. Of course, that adds additional appointment visits and also a lot of additional costs.
Those additional steps are usually reserved for a full mouth of veneers or crowns. It's not customary to do it for a single tooth. The reasons are that it costs a lot more and requires a lot more dental visits. Nonetheless, if you want it you can always ask for it.