Is It Painful To Get A Crown?

Getting a crown isn't supposed to be painful at all because you're supposed to be thoroughly numb for the procedure. However, there are instances where it may be painful.


This article will explain all the reasons why it wouldn't hurt and also possibilities for why it could hurt. We'll also go through the aftercare so you know what to fully expect before your dental crown procedure.



Table of Contents:



Does getting a crown hurt?

Getting a crown can hurt if you do the procedure without any local anesthesia because the tooth is full of nerves. Drilling into the tooth without any numbing will certainly irritate the nerve and cause it to send pain signals to your brain.


human tooth anatomy
Credit: KDS444

If you attempt to do a crown on a non-anesthetized tooth, the pulp of the tooth will send pain signals down the root and out of the apex of the root tip. Since each tooth nerve is connected to the trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V) it will traverse through it and end up at the brain. Hence why it is called one of the cranial nerves.


You can see in the diagram below how each tooth connects to a branch of the nerve. The main trunk of the nerve is located near your brain.


diagram of trigeminal nerve
Credit: Grant, John Charles Boileu

Therefore, to answer your question... Yes, a crown can hurt if you do not receive any numbing prior to starting the procedure. However, every dentist in the world wouldn't even think about trying to do the procedure without any local anesthesia. They will definitely give you more than adequate numbing so you don't have to worry about pain at all if you need a crown done.


Inadequate anesthesia

Some patients require more anesthesia than others so if you do happen to start feeling pain during the crown preparation. You should raise your left hand and notify your dentist immediately. They can always give you an extra dose of Lidocaine so that you can be comfortable and they can get back to working.


Tip: Always raise your left hand because your dentist is often working to the right of you. You don't want to bump into them while they're holding the drill. That can cause some serious soft tissue injury!



Exception

There is one exception to the rule where you can have a crown done without needing any numbing and not feel any pain at all. The exception is if the tooth had been treated with a root canal. Root canal treated teeth do not require any local anesthesia because they don't have any nerves left.


The purpose of the root canal procedure is to remove all of the nerves from the tooth. Therefore, the tooth is nerveless after completion of the procedure. Since it has no nerves, you can drill as much as you want on it without it feeling any sensation at all. This is also why root canal treated teeth are referred to as dead teeth.


At our long island city dental office, we often do not give any local anesthesia for the crown procedure if they just had the root canal procedure. We've never had any issues with the patient feeling any pain or sensitivity from drilling on root canal treated teeth. It just goes to prove that dead teeth have no nerves.


However, there are times where we may give anesthesia if the patient requests it or if they seem squeamish about it. The anesthetic in that case provides more of a mental numbing rather than a tooth numbing.




Is the procedure suppose to hurt afterwards?

A crown procedure is not suppose to hurt afterwards because you will leave with a temporary crown, which protects the tooth. Although it is normal for the tooth to feel a little sore and tender because the gums do need to be manipulated during the cord packing phase.


Temporary crown protects against sensitivity

The process of preparing the tooth for the crown requires shaving down the tooth. The enamel lay

er, which is insensitive to the oral environment gets removed, thus leaving the exposed dentin layer which IS sensitive.


Below is a photo of a tooth with a crown that broke in half. It shows you how a crown protects the yellow dentin layer underneath. Whenever a situation like this occurs, the exposed portion becomes very sensitive. The portion that is still covered by the crown will not be sensitive.


Crown broke in half but still on tooth

The purpose of a temporary crown is to cover up the entire prepared surface of the tooth until the permanent one is ready. This is also why if you happen to accidentally floss the temporary crown and it falls off, it will feel very sensitive. That however should subside once you glue the temporary back in.



Soreness and tenderness is normal due to cord packing

Your tooth may not hurt after the crown procedure but the gums may feel tender afterwards and that is normal. Reason is because in order to get an accurate impression or mold of the prepared tooth surface, your dentist has to pack cord into the gums.


This is a picture of what the tooth looks like without the cord:


crown preparation without cord

This is what the tooth looks like after packing the cord into the gums:


crown prep with cord in gums

As you can see in the picture above, the cord is literally squeeze into the gums. This helps to push the gums away and down away from the tooth. Thus, when your dentist takes a mold of the tooth, the gums don't get in the way. This allows for a more accurate crown impression.


Due to the cord being placed into the gums, you may feel soreness or tenderness after the procedure. That sensation is completely normal and should subside within a day or two.



Exception - when getting a crown can hurt afterwards

If you are getting a crown because the tooth has a large cavity, there is the potential that the nerve of the tooth could die in the process. Even if the cavity didn't go into the pulp, if it gets close enough, the nerve can still die.


Your tooth may require a certain amount of buffer to protect the pulp. If there is not enough tooth structure left as a buffer, it can still die even if it did not reach the nerve.


Therefore, if your tooth hurts after the procedure and you know that it had a big cavity on it. There is a good chance, you may need to put the crown on hold and get a root canal first. After the nerve is removed from the tooth, you may resume the procedure for the crown.




Can I go to work after getting a crown?

For routine crown appointments, you can certainly go to work right after the appointment. It should not affect you much at all and you can pretty much function normally.


The only two things to watch out for is that you may talk a little funny and you need to wait 2-3 hours before you eat.

  • Speech impairment. Since you are numb, your lips and tongue may not move quite like how you want them to. Thus, you may talk just a little bit weird but people should still be able to understand you. The numbing effect will wear off after 2-3 hours.

  • Wait before eating. Since you're numb, we would advise you to not eat immediately afterwards. You should wait for the numbing to wear off before eating so that you don't chew up your lip or your tongue. The novocaine usually does wear off after 2-3 hours but sometimes it could be longer.


To sum it up, you do not need to take a day off just because you're going in for a crown appointment. Isn't it great that you don't need to take time off for it?




Aftercare

Immediately after the crown procedure, you will leave with a temporary crown. It is cemented in with temporary glue so you do need to be extra careful with it since the glue isn't permanent. If your temporary pops off because you're not careful, your tooth will be sensitive!


Here are some things that you should keep in mind:

  • When you floss, don't pull it back out. Pull the floss out to the side so that it doesn't catch the temporary and floss it out!

  • Avoid eating sticky foods like caramel, laffy taffy, and chewing gum.

  • Try to chew more on the opposite side to minimize chances of breaking the temporary crown.

  • You should brush it normally as if it was any other tooth in the mouth.

  • Mouthwash is okay to use.

  • Any type of foods with cumin and turmeric can potentially stain the temporary to a yellow color. Most noticeable curry can do this.


what temporary crowns look like on two front teeth
what temporary crowns look like on two front teeth

Most people do not require any pain medication after this procedure. They are usually fine as is without medication. However, if you do have low pain tolerance and it feels uncomfortable, you can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen as needed.




Takeaway

Getting a crown shouldn't hurt because you should be thoroughly numb for the procedure. If it does hurt then it simply means that you need more local anesthesia. In that case, kindly request your dentist to give you an extra dose of Lidocaine. That should keep you nice and comfortable.


Although if you happen to be getting a dental crown on a root canal treated tooth, you don't even need any local anesthesia. You can skip the anesthetic completely if you wanted to. However, if you are squeamish and feeling anxious, it may still be good to get the numbing just for your peace of mind.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!