Although Elvis Presley left us more than four decades ago, he still looms large over popular culture. It’s not uncommon, then, for personal items like his guitars, his revolver collection or even his famed white jumpsuit to go on sale. Perhaps, though, one of the oddest of Elvis’s personal effects recently went on auction (again)—his gold-filled dental crown.
It’s a little hazy as to how the “King” parted with it, but the crown’s list of subsequent holders, including a museum, is well-documented. Now, it’s looking for a new home with a starting bid of $2,500.
The interest, of course, isn’t on the crown, but on its original owner. Dental crowns weren’t rare back in Presley’s day, and they certainly aren’t now. But they are more life-like, thanks to advances in dental materials over the last thirty years.
Crowns are an invaluable part of dental care. Though they can improve a tooth’s cosmetic appeal, they’re more often installed to protect a weak or vulnerable tooth. In that regard, a crown’s most important qualities are strength and durability.
In the early 20th Century, you could have utility or beauty, but usually not both. The most common crowns of that time were composed of precious metals like silver and, as in Presley’s case, gold. Metal crowns can ably withstand the chewing forces teeth encounter daily.
But they simply don’t look like natural teeth. Dental porcelain was around in the early days, but it wasn’t very strong. So, dentists devised a new kind of crown that blended durability with life-likeness. Known as porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns, they were essentially hybrids, a metal crown, which fit over the tooth, overlayed with a porcelain exterior shell to give it an attractive appearance.
PFMs became the most widely used crown and held that title until the early 2000s. That’s when a new crown leader came into its own—the all-ceramic crown. In the decade or so before, the fragility of porcelain was finally overcome with the addition of Lucite to the tooth-colored ceramic to strengthen it.
Additional strengthening breakthroughs since then helped make the all-ceramic crown the top choice for restorations. Even so, dentists still install metal and PFM crowns when the situation calls for added strength in teeth that aren’t as visible, such as the back molars. But for more visible teeth like incisors, all-ceramic usually stands up to biting while looking life-like and natural.
For a star of his magnitude, Presley’s crown was likely state-of-the-art for his time. In our day, though, you have even more crown choices to both protect your tooth and enhance your smile.