These “fixed dental appliances” can restore your smile when you have damaged or missing teeth.
If one of your teeth is missing or has been damaged by injury, dental decay, or the aging process, your dentist may suggest a dental crown or a bridge to restore your smile. Both are fixed appliances, meaning that unlike dentures, which can be removed for cleaning every day, crowns and bridges are permanently fixed onto existing teeth or onto dental implants, and only a dentist can remove them.
A crown is a tooth-shaped cap that is used to cover up and protect a damaged tooth, strengthening it and enhancing its appearance, shape, or placement. Sometimes a crown is put on top of an implant to give it a more tooth-like shape and increase its functionality.
Dentists frequently recommend crowns to:
- Replace a large filling on a partial tooth
- Help prevent a weakened tooth from breaking
- Repair a fractured tooth
- Attach a bridge
- Cover an implant
- Camouflage a discolored or deformed tooth
- Protect a tooth that has undergone a root canal procedure
Crowns can be made of porcelain or ceramic materials that match the color of your teeth, as well as acrylic, or gold and metal alloys. Alloys are usually stronger than porcelain and are typically recommended for back teeth, and porcelain can be bonded to a metal shell to make the crown both strong and more natural in appearance.
As the name implies, dental bridges are used to bridge the gap created by one or more missing teeth. The gaps that result from missing teeth ultimately cause the teeth remaining to rotate or move into these empty spaces, negatively impacting the bite. Lost teeth can lead to gingivitis, periodontitis, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
Bridges fill a dental gap with a pontic, or false tooth, that’s anchored to the patient’s teeth or implants (abutments). Bridges can be made of porcelain or ceramic materials that can be matched to the color of your teeth.
There are four types of dental bridges:
- Traditional. The most popular type of bridge, traditional bridges’ pontics are supported by crowns attached to teeth on each side of a missing tooth.
- Cantilever. This is similar to a traditional bridge, except it’s supported by an abutment on just one side rather than on both.
- Maryland. This conservative alternative to a traditional bridge has one or more pontics supported by a metal or porcelain structure attached to adjacent teeth. It’s conservative because it avoids the removal of dental enamel necessary for fitting a crown.
- Implant- supported. An option when more than one tooth is missing. Typically, an implant supports each replacement tooth, but when this isn’t possible, a pontic can be attached to one or more implant-supported replacement teeth.
How Are Crowns and Bridges Made?
After a tooth is reduced in size to accommodate a crown or bridge, a dentist will take an impression of your teeth that a dental lab will use to make the crown or bridge. A temporary crown or bridge will be inserted to cover the affected tooth while the permanent one is being made. When the crown or bridge is ready, the temporary one is removed and the permanent one is cemented over the prepared tooth.
Once in place, crowns and bridges can reasonably be expected to last a lifetime, although they occasionally loosen or fall out. Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily to keep your teeth and gums healthy will also help keep your crown or bridge in place and ensure its longevity.
To find out more about crowns and bridges or schedule an appointment with our dental professionals, please contact Knights Family Dentistry.