A well-made and expertly placed dental crown should feel like nothing more than part of the natural tooth it's covering. As such, it's very easy to forget that you even have the crown. But you'll quickly remember your crown if the tooth it's covering begins to hurt.

Why Your Tooth Is Hurting

Whether your dental crown was recently fitted, or if it's been in place for years, pain is a warning sign that can't be ignored, and must be reported to your dentist. What can be the cause of your pain?

  • Pain when you bite down can suggest that the crown is too tall for the tooth (which is only a problem with a recent crown). The excess height creates excess pressure on the tooth, leading to your discomfort.
  • Worsening pain can suggest that the underlying tooth can be decaying. It may have needed to have a cavity filled before the crown was fitted, and this cavity might have continued to develop. A new cavity may also have formed at the crown's margin — where it meets your natural tooth at the gum line.
  • Worsening pain can also be due to a crack or other breach in the crown. This allows contaminants to enter the tooth, and this pain can be due to an infection that's taking hold in the tooth's nerve.
  • The pain may be more felt in your gums. The crown's tapering at its margins may have been slightly miscalculated, causing friction as the crown makes contact with your gingival tissues.

The presence of the crown can actually conceal many of the visual signs of problems with the tooth, which is why your discomfort is a reliable indication that you need to see your dentist. What will your dentist be able to do?

How a Dentist Can Help

If your pain is due to a design flaw in the crown (such as if the crown is too high, or its margins must be re-tapered), your crown can be replaced. When these required adjustments are minor, your existing crown can usually be modified. Even a crack in the crown can be patched with dental resin, but your dentist will assess the overall quality of the crown and might recommend replacement. Even a cavity in the underlying tooth can sometimes be treated without removing the crown (with your dentist drilling through the crown to fill the cavity). Some instances of decay will need the crown to be removed. After treatment, the crown can be put back into place.

Please don't ignore pain under a dental crown, as it's a sign that both the tooth and its crown may be in jeopardy. Contact your dentist if you're experiencing pain under a dental crown.