When a tooth needs the level of reinforcement that's only possible with a dental crown, the porcelain crown itself is securely cemented to the tooth and should stay in place for years until the crown eventually needs an upgrade. It's possible to be caught off guard by the loss of a dental crown. If its bonding should deteriorate, a crown can detach while eating, and you may need to fish it out of your mouth. You may even swallow it, which isn't ideal, although it's harmless. In any event, you'll need to see your dentist to have the crown reattached or replaced. It hardly seems like a dental emergency, does it?

An Unprotected Tooth

In many (if not most) cases of a lost dental crown, the problem doesn't need an urgent solution. Yes, your previously protected tooth is now unprotected, and this must be remedied sooner rather than later, but it can wait until you make an appointment with your dentist. But for some people, a lost dental crown can be extremely (and immediately) uncomfortable—to the point that emergency dentistry is necessary. But what is causing your discomfort?

Stimulation of Your Tooth's Nerve

The only part of a tooth capable of registering sensations is its nerve (also called the dental pulp), which is at the centre of the tooth's structure. The nerve is surrounded by the tooth's dentin, which is likewise surrounded by protective dental enamel—or in your case, a dental crown. But the nerve can indirectly process stimuli. Dentin has small (microscopic) tubules leading from its surface to your dental pulp. The nerve can (via these tubules) register sensations caused by bite pressure or the temperature of the foods and drinks you consume. For some unlucky people, this can be excruciating.

Your Level of Discomfort

It might be difficult for someone to accurately judge if they're experiencing a dental emergency. If in doubt, remember this simple rule—if it hurts, it's an emergency. Yes, you could take over-the-counter pain medication or try to avoid chewing with the tooth, but this probably won't be enough to manage your symptoms until you can see your own dentist. If a lost crown triggers immediate discomfort, see an emergency dentist.

Protecting the Tooth

Bring your detached dental crown, unless it was swallowed or otherwise lost. The solution to your problem may be as simple as having the crown re-cemented. In other cases, an emergency dentist can fit a pre-made, temporary (acrylic) crown to the tooth. This won't look as natural (or be as strong) as a porcelain crown, but it will prevent the tooth's nerve from reacting to external stimuli. A temporary crown can be a lifesaver, and then it's just a case of seeing your regular dentist without too much delay, but a temporary crown will fit the bill until such time as a new, permanent, porcelain crown has been manufactured for you.

A lost dental crown won't be an emergency in most cases. But when its loss creates immediate discomfort, then you shouldn't delay treatment.