Crowns and Bridges
What are Dental Crowns and Tooth Bridges?
Both crowns and most bridges are fixed prosthetic devices. Unlike removable devices such as dentures, which you can take out and clean daily, crowns and bridges are cemented onto existing teeth or implants, and can only be removed by a dentist. Regular flossing and dental visits are required to ensure the longevity of the tooth as there is still a chance of tooth decay underneath/ around the crowns and bridges.
How do Crowns Work?
A crown is used to cover or "protect" a damaged tooth. Besides strengthening a damaged tooth, a crown can be used to improve its esthetics. A crown can also be placed on top of an implant to provide a tooth-like structure for function. Porcelain or ceramic crowns can be matched to the color of your natural teeth. Other materials include gold and metal alloys, acrylic and ceramic. These alloys are generally stronger than porcelain and may be recommended for back teeth. Porcelain bonded to a metal shell is often used because it is both strong and attractive.
How do Bridges Work?
A bridge may be recommended if you're missing one or more teeth. Gaps left by missing teeth eventually cause the remaining teeth to rotate or shift into the empty spaces, resulting in a bad 'bite'. The imbalance caused by missing teeth can also lead to gum disease and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
Bridges are commonly used to replace one or more missing teeth. They span the space where the teeth are missing. Bridges are cemented to the natural teeth or implants surrounding the empty space. These teeth, called abutments, serve as anchors for the bridge. A replacement tooth, called a pontic, is attached to the crowns that cover the abutments. As with crowns, there are different type of material for bridges. Your dentist can help you decide which to use, based on the location of the missing tooth (or teeth), its function, aesthetic considerations and cost. Porcelain or ceramic bridges can be matched to the color of your natural teeth.
However, bridges are getting less popular nowadays due to its invasiveness as more people opt for implant to prevent treatment on the adjacent teeth.
How Long do Crowns and Bridges Last?
While crowns and bridges can last a lifetime, they do sometimes come loose or fall out. The most important step you can take to ensure your crown or bridge last is to practice good oral hygiene. A bridge can lose its support if the teeth or bone holding it in place are damaged by dental disease. Keep your gums and teeth healthy by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily. Also see your dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings.
To prevent damage to your new crown or bridge, avoid chewing hard foods, ice or other hard objects.