Crowns are synthetic caps, usually made of a material like porcelain, placed on the top of a tooth. Crowns are typically used to restore a tooth's function and appearance following a restorative procedure such as a root canal. When a tooth breaks or there is a large amount of decay, crowns are often used to restore the tooth. Crowns are also used to attach bridges, cover implants, or prevent a cracked tooth from becoming worse. Crowns can also serve an aesthetic use, and are applied when a discolored or stained tooth needs to be restored to its natural appearance.
Crowns are typically made in 2 appointments. The first appointment is to prepare the tooth for the crown. The tooth will be shaved down to accommodate the space needed for the crown and an impression will be made. The impression is sent to a lab and the final crown is made. During this time, approximately 3 weeks, a temporary crown will be placed on the tooth. The final crown is placed with strong cement that inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Bridges are natural-looking dental appliances that can replace a one or multiple missing teeth. Because they are custom-made, bridges are barely noticeable and can restore the natural contour of teeth as well as the proper bite relationship between upper and lower teeth. Bridges are sometimes referred to as fixed partial dentures, because they are semi-permanent and are bonded to existing teeth or implants. Unlike a removable bridge, which you can take out and clean, only your dentist can remove a fixed bridge by using a drill to cut it off. Porcelain, gold alloys or combinations of materials are usually used to make bridge appliances. Sometimes, fixed bridges are attached to implants and are great alternatives to removable partials denture.
Bridges are typically made in 2 to 3 appointments. The teeth on both sides of a missing tooth are shaved down to accommodate for the crowns. These crowns are attached to a fake tooth, called a pontic, to act as a bridge; much like a bridge over a river. An impression is taken and sent to a lab to fabricate the bridge. There may be a try-in to make sure the substructure fits correctly prior to making the teeth. Once a perfect fit is obtained, the porcelain is shaped and contoured to your bite. The bridge is cemented in with strong cement. While you wait the 3 weeks it takes to fabricate the bridge, you will wear a temporary bridge that will hold the teeth in place.
Caring For Your Crowns and Bridges It is especially important to maintain excellent oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly when you have a crown or bridge. It is still possible to develop a cavity around the gumline and work its way under the crown or bridge where the cavity can grow uncontrollably. When detected early, the cavity can be replaced with a composite filling and will not disrupt the crown or bridge’s integrity. Remember to always brush and floss around your crown or bridge to avoid excess plaque or collection of debris around the restoration. With this proper care, a good quality crown could last up to eight years or longer.
Certain behaviors such as jaw clenching or bruxism (teeth grinding) significantly shorten the life of a crown. Moreover, eating brittle foods, ice or hard candy can compromise the adhesion of the crown, or even damage the crown. So treat your crown and bridge work with care.