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How Does Your Dentist Know if You Have a Cavity Under an Old Crown?

If you have a dental crown, there may be a cavity lurking underneath.

But how do you know? And most importantly, how can you fix it?

One of the biggest tell-tale signs of a cavity hidden under your crown is a black line between the crown and your gums. Another way to identify hidden cavities is with the use of x-rays. While they can sometimes confirm the presence of cavities (in addition to dental tools that feel the edges of the crown), there are plenty of scenarios that involve cavities nestled beneath what may appear to be a crown that is still in good condition.

You might be thinking that your dentist should be able to find all of those hidden cavities. They did go to school and undergo extensive training, after all, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

Why can’t my dentist find hidden cavities?

Evaluating your dental work is not exact and can be based on the dentist treating you. Their experience and opinions will affect your diagnosis.

Older crowns should be evaluated differently than newly-placed crowns. If your dentist removes an old crown, there will likely be a partial washout of the permanent cement and/or a new cavity that they didn’t know about. Removing old crowns is like that Forrest Gump saying: “you never know what you’re going to get.”

If you are older, your dentist is more likely to see a “spot” of recurrent cavity next to a crown. In order to treat it, your dentist can either clean out and “spackle” the area, or remove and replace the entire crown. Their decision will vary depending on your age, finances, and the apparent fit of your crown’s edges.

If you are elderly or your finances are limited and your health is compromised, your dentist should recommend a discreet repair procedure and not the replacement of your crown. On the other hand, if you’re under 70 and in good health, they will likely recommend replacing your crown. This is because if they choose to “patch” an existing crown, it may not last beyond a few months to a year and they can’t always see the severity of any cavity underneath before re-sealing the edges.

If you’ve been searching for a dentist who will do their best to identify any hidden cavities and treat them accordingly, reach out to Dr. Andrea Stevens. She and her team are here to help you get the healthy mouth you deserve.

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