Crowns & Bridges
What Are Dental Crowns?
Crowns are a type of dental restoration which, when cemented into place, fully cup over the portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line. Dental crowns encase the entire visible aspect of a tooth, so a dental crown becomes the tooth’s new outer surface.
Crowns can be made out of porcelain (dental ceramic), metal (a gold or other metal alloy), or a combination of both. Other terms that are used to refer to dental crowns are “dental caps” and “tooth caps.”
Why do teeth need dental crowns?
A dentist might recommend placing a dental crown for a variety of reasons but, most of these reasons will usually fall within one of the following categories:
A) To restore a tooth to its original shape.
B) To strengthen a tooth.
C) To improve the cosmetic appearance of a tooth.
Using dental crowns to restore a tooth’s shape and strength.
Since a dental crown that has been cemented into place essentially becomes the new outer surface for the tooth, it is easy to imagine how the placement of a crown can restore a tooth to its original shape. It’s also easy to see how a dental crown can help to strengthen a tooth by way of being a hard outer shell that encases the tooth structure that lies within it. For both of these reasons, dental crowns are routinely made for teeth that have broken, worn excessively, or else have had large portions destroyed by tooth decay.
When a dental crown is made the dental laboratory technician can visualize and examine all aspects of your bite and jaw movements, from a variety of angles, and then sculpt your dental crown so it has the perfect anatomy. In comparison, when a dentist places a dental filling they have far less control over the final outcome of the shape of your tooth because it is often difficult for them to visualize, evaluate, and access to the tooth on which they are working.
There are some types of filling materials that can bond to tooth structure, but dental fillings are not considered to substantially strengthen a tooth in the same way that a dental crown can, with its rigid encapsulation of a tooth.
Using porcelain dental crowns to improve the cosmetic appearance of teeth.
Since a dental crown serves to cup over and encase the visible portion of a tooth, any dental crown that has a porcelain surface can be used as a means to idealize the cosmetic appearance of a tooth. Possibly you have heard it rumored (especially in past decades) that certain movie stars have had their teeth “capped.” This simply means that the person has obtained their “Hollywood smile” by way of having dental crowns placed.
In general, a dental crown probably should not be used as a means to improve the appearance of a tooth if there is any other alternative dental treatment that could equally satisfactorily achieve the same cosmetic results. This is because a dentist must grind a significant portion of a tooth away when a dental crown is made. If a more conservative dental procedure could equally well improve the tooth’s appearance, such as a porcelain veneer, dental bonding, or even just teeth whitening, then it is usually best to consider that treatment option first.
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. As with crowns, you have a choice of materials 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 colour of your natural teeth.