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What Are Crowns And Bridges?

Crowns and most bridges are prosthetics that are fixed in place. Unlike removable dentures, which can be removed and cleaned daily, fixed crowns and bridges are cemented over existing teeth or implants, and only a dentist can remove them.

How do crowns work?

A crown is used to completely cover a destroyed tooth. In addition, it can be used to improve the appearance, shape or alignment of the tooth. A crown can also be placed on an implant to achieve the shape and functional structure of a tooth. It is possible to match the color of porcelain or ceramic crowns with that of your natural teeth. Other materials include gold and metallic, acrylic and ceramic alloys. These alloys are generally stronger than porcelain, and are recommended for posterior teeth. Occasionally, porcelain cemented to the outside of a metal crown is used, thus offering a strong and aesthetically pleasing restoration.

The dentist will recommend a crown to:

Replace large fillings, when not enough tooth remains

Prevent a weakened tooth from breaking

Repair a fractured tooth

Place a bridge

Cover a dental implant

Cover a discolored or misshapen tooth

Cover a tooth that has undergone root canal treatment

How do bridges work?

If you are missing one or more teeth, your dentist will recommend a bridge. The gaps between the missing teeth cause the remaining teeth to rotate or shift into the gaps over time, leading to an inappropriate bite. The imbalance caused by missing teeth can also lead to gum disease and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

Bridges are often used to replace one or more missing teeth, and occupy the space left by them. The dentist cements the bridges to the natural teeth or to the implants that surround the empty space. These teeth, called abutments, serve to anchor the bridge. Then you attach a replacement tooth (in the missing space), this tooth is called a pontic, and it is attached to the crowns that cover the abutment teeth. As with crowns, there are several materials for bridges. Your dentist can help you decide which one to use, based on the location of the missing tooth or teeth, its function, cosmetic considerations, and cost. The color of porcelain or ceramic bridges is matched to that of your natural teeth.

How are crowns and bridges made?

Before making a crown or bridge, the dentist must reduce the size of the tooth or teeth so that the crown or bridge will fit properly over it. The dentist will then take a dental impression to provide an exact mold for the crown or bridge. If you are using porcelain, the dentist will determine the correct stain so that the color of the crown or bridge matches that of your teeth.

Using this impression, a dental laboratory makes your crown or bridge from the material specified by the dentist. While the permanent crown or bridge is being performed, a temporary crown or bridge will be placed to cover the prepared tooth. When the permanent crown or bridge is ready, you will remove the temporary crown or bridge and cement the new one to the prepared tooth.

How long do crowns and bridges last?

While crowns and bridges can last a lifetime, they sometimes loosen or come off. The most important step you can take to ensure the longevity of your crown or bridge is to practice good oral hygiene. If the teeth or bone that support a bridge are damaged by dental disease, the bridge will lose support. Keep your gums and teeth healthy by brushing with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, using the dental dam and mouthwash daily. In addition, consult the dentist and the hygienist periodically for check-ups or professional controls and cleanings.

To prevent damage to your new crown or bridge, avoid chewing hard food, ice, or other hard objects.

What do you think?

Have you ever had crowns or bridges, let us know your opinion in the comment box.

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Dr. Armellini received her dental degree from the Central University of Venezuela. She received an MBA from the University of Michigan and embarked on a clinical fellowship in Implantology Prosthodontics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

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