Evolution Dental Crowns

What are Dental Crowns?

Dental crowns are a cosmetic restoration used to strengthen a tooth or improve its shape. They are most often used for teeth that are broken, worn, or partially destroyed by tooth decay. Though we use the most advanced technologies at Washington State Prosthodontics and our doctors are some of the most knowledgeable in Bellevue, we love sharing the history of dental crowns with our patients and showing them just how far dentistry and prosthodontics have come.

The Ancient Origins of Dentistry and Dental Crowns

We know that as long as humans have existed, dental health has also been around. But when was it first acknowledged as Dentistry? According to the American Dental Association, the history of Dentistry goes as far back as 5000 BC, where a Sumerian text discusses dental decay, stating the belief that “tooth worms” were the cause of decaying teeth. 2000 BC marked the death of Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe who is now referred to as the ‘first dentist’. This has been established due to an inscription on Hesy-Re’s tomb after he passed away reading “The greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians. Though there may have been many like him before or during that time, this inscription on Hesy-Re’s tomb is currently the earliest reference we know of where an individual is referenced to as a dental practitioner!

Throughout the years, there is consistent record of the study and practice of dentistry, with even Hippocrates and Aristotle having written about wiring as a way to help heal fractured jaws and stabilize teeth that were loose, along with how to treat decayed teeth and gum disease. From 166 to 201 AD, the American Dental Association states that the Etruscans were practicing dental prosthetics with the use of gold crowns along with fixed bridgework. The first use of crowns may not be exactly what you think. In fact, gold crowns were believed to be used as a symbol of wealth, especially for Etruscan women. These crowns were not used to help repair broken or decayed teeth, nor were they put in by ‘dentists’. The origins of dental crowns started with goldsmiths who would remove the ‘healthy’ teeth of high status, wealthy women, and refit and replace them with gold banding. The first dental crowns were not only simply for aesthetics, but they actually had the opposite effect of what we use crowns for today. They were fragile and unable to work as real teeth. Consequently, those who had gold crowns or bridges were unable to eat hard or coarse foods. This was another show of wealth, as it was known that these individuals had personal servants to cook them soft foods that were easy to eat and chew, so not to ruin their ‘dental work’.

Dentistry in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages is often considered the ‘Beginning of the Profession’ in dentistry, as it became more wide spread and established as a practice. A medical text in China was the first to discuss the use of silver paste as a type of blend used for fillings in 700. Around the 1200’s to 1300’s, a Guild of Barbers was established in France. These barbers consisted of two groups, one of which were surgeons who had the training and ability to perform serious and complex surgeries, and the other who were referred to as lay barbers. Lay barbers performed simple services based more on hygienic needs which included the extraction of teeth.

In the 1500’s, Europe made even more advances in dentistry, with the first book written that was dedicated solely to the practice of dentistry as a guide for barbers and surgeons who specialized in the mouth in 1530. The book, “The Little Medicinal Book for all Kinds of Infirmities of the Teeth” covered the basic procedures od dentistry such as drilling and extracting teeth, as well as the process for properly performing fillings and dental crowns. In 1575 the Father of surgery, Ambrose Pare, then published his writing “Complete Works” on dentistry, getting even more technical with information surrounding jaw fractures and the treatments for tooth decay, including crowns.

The Significant Advancement of Dentistry and Dental Crowns

Over the next few centuries, the practice of dentistry as a whole continuously evolved in both minor and major ways. According to the American Dental Association, Claude Mouton was the first to recommend white enameling for gold crowns in order to give them a more natural and esthetic appearance. A gentleman named John Baker was the first to bring the practice of Dentistry to America from England in the mid 1700’s, and from there we saw massive advances in the science and education surrounding dentistry.

In the late 1800’s we saw the first major improvement in dental crowns when Dr. Charles H. Land patented what was called the porcelain ‘jacket’ crown. This type of crown was sufficient in making a broken tooth visibly appear whole and unharmed as it was a fully covered crown that surrounded the entirety of the tooth. The downfall of the porcelain jacket crown was that it was vulnerable to microscopic cracking which would inevitably cause issues to the tooth and surrounding gum tissue.

The 20th century brought the next significant advancement in dental crowns, with porcelain being fused to metal crowns. This combination allowed patients to have the natural tooth appearance from the porcelain while also receiving the durability the metal crown was able to provide. Later, in 1984, the very first synthetic crown made up of ceramics and glass was manufactured and in high demand from both dentists and their patients because of the wide range of benefits in physical properties, esthetics of the crowns, and the safety. These glass ceramic crowns have now lead us to what we know as the modern-day crown in dentistry.

Present Day Crowns at Washington State Prosthodontics

At Washington State Prosthodontics and Dental Implant Center, we are experts in what we do, including dental crowns, one of our most common services provided. Our crowns are "cemented" onto an existing tooth and fully cover the portion of your tooth above the gum line. In effect, the crown becomes your tooth's new outer surface. Crowns can be made of porcelain, metal, or a combination of both. Porcelain crowns are most often preferred because they mimic the translucency of natural teeth and are very strong. Your crown is created in a lab from your unique tooth impression which allows a dental laboratory technician to examine all aspects of your bite and jaw movements. Your crown is then sculpted just for you so that your bite and jaw movements function normally once the crown is placed. Check out our cosmetic smile gallery here, and if you’re looking for the best Bellevue prosthodontist, you’ve found it at Washington State Prosthodontics. Schedule a consultation today!