Dental Crowns and Bridges
WHAT ARE DENTAL CROWNS AND BRIDGES?
A dental crown is a fixed prosthetic “cap” that fits over a damaged tooth and restores it to its normal appearance and function. It can be molded from several different materials, including ceramics, porcelain-and-metal, gold, and resin. Crowns duplicate the shape and size of the original tooth and effectively replace the top of a damaged tooth.
Dental bridges are meant to “bridge the gap” created when one or more teeth are missing from a mouth. Bridges consist of at least two dental abutment crowns and at least one false tooth (called a “pontic”), all created together as one solid piece. The pontic fits into the area where the tooth is missing. The abutment crowns fit onto the teeth on either side of the gap to support and anchor the pontic. Ultimately, bridges fill in missing teeth and help replace healthy tooth structure after damage.
WHAT ARE CROWNS AND BRIDGES USED FOR?
Crowns and bridges are very common dental restorations because of their utility. Each restoration can be used to solve several problems, such as:
Cracked, damaged, or broken teeth
Crowns fit snugly over a cracked tooth, holding it together to prevent it from breaking apart any further. They also preserve or restore the tooth’s shape and functionality.
Gaps between teeth
Both crowns and bridges serve to fill in gaps created by crumbling teeth, restoring the structure of the mouth. Properly -placed crowns and bridges can keep other teeth from shifting into gaps left behind by previous damage or prior extractions.
In some cases, dentists may use a crown to cover up a seriously discolored tooth. Dentists often place crowns over teeth that root canal therapy or large metal fillings have discolored, for instance. Crowns are made of material designed to look like normal tooth enamel and can even mimic the color of a patient’s natural teeth. Most crowns look indistinguishable from natural teeth.
Dentists use dental bridges to replace one or multiple missing teeth. The “pontic” false tooth in the bridge fully replaces the missing tooth, allowing a bridge to restore functionality and appearance to the area.
Crowns and bridges solve a wide variety of structural tooth and mouth problems. Not only do they restore functionality, they also protect vulnerable abutment teeth from further damage.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED A CROWN OR BRIDGE?
The only way to know for sure if you need a crown is to ask your dentist examine the tooth you’re worried about.
If one or more of your teeth is extensively decayed or broken, you may need a crown. If you recently lost a tooth, a dental bridge could be one of several options. Consult with your dentist ASAP if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Visibly damaged teeth
- Consistent or intermittent tooth pain
- Teeth that are very sensitive to temperature
- Pain when brushing your teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Swollen gums, lips, or jaw
- Bleeding teeth or gums
- Other unexplained tooth pain
HOW DO CROWN AND BRIDGE PROCEDURES WORK?
Getting a crown or bridge placed usually requires two trips to the dentist’s office:
The first visit
1. The dentist examines the damaged tooth to assess the damage and determine how to approach fixing it. The dentist will usually take an x-ray to help in the assessment.
2. The doctor anesthetizes the tooth and the area around it to numb the tooth and the surrounding gums.
3. The dentist prepares the tooth for the crown or bridge using a dental drill. They remove all decay and reduce the outside of the tooth into a base shape that is able to accommodate the crown. If the dentist finds extensive decay that would limit the tooth’s ability to support the crown, they’ll add a buildup material to fill in the area and help support the crown or bridge. How the dentist reshapes the tooth depends on the original shape of the tooth.
4. The dentist uses a paste or putty to make an impression of the tooth. They send the impression to a dental laboratory, which fabricates the custom crown. Making the crown can take several weeks. To protect the tooth in the meantime, your dentist puts in a temporary crown.
The second visit
1. The doctor anesthetizes the tooth and area around it to numb the tooth and prepare to install the crown.
2. The dentist removes the temporary crown and makes sure the new crown has the right fit, shape, bite, and looks.
3. The doctor applies a special dental cement to the inside of the crown, then carefully places the crown on the prepared tooth so that it fits snugly. Depending on the type of dental cement used, the dentist may cure the cement so that it begins to sets instantly. While the cement dries, they’ll clean away excess cement from the tooth and surrounding gums.
IF I THINK I NEED A CROWN OR BRIDGE, HOW SOON SHOULD I SEE MY DENTIST?
If you’re having tooth pain or other mouth problems, you should always see your dentist ASAP. Crowns are a commonly performed procedure that can prevent more serious problems. If you think you might need a crown or bridge, you can schedule a dental exam with ImmediaDent right away!