Crowns or “caps” are a very effective treatment for teeth which have been structurally compromised due to large amounts of decay, extensive wear, cracks, or root canals. Because the crown covers the entire tooth, it holds together and strengthens the remaining tooth structure. Crowns may also be used to protect the structure of a tooth that is fractured or broken, and can be attached to bridges or dentures, or to cover a dental implant.
Crowns can be made from several different materials, including gold or other types of metals, porcelain or ceramic materials. Sometimes the doctor will recommend different types of crowns for different patients and their situations. A porcelain fused to metal crowns are probably the most common type of crown. They are a tooth colored porcelain crown with a metallic substructure lining the inside of the crown. Sometimes they show a thin metal lining where the tooth meets the gums. Ceramic or porcelain crowns look the most like natural teeth, since they do not have any metal in the structure. If you have any questions about crowns then please call our El Paso dental office and we will answer all of your questions.
A crown requires two visits. The first visit is when Dr. Greenhalgh will “prep” the tooth – i.e. prepare the tooth to have the crown put on. This involves removing any decay, a large old filling that has cracked or gotten decay under it, etc. If the tooth is severely damaged a core build-up may be necessary to hold the crown in its proper position. Patients are usually numb for this first visit.
After the tooth has been “prepped,” and impression is taken of that area, and the impression is sent to a dental lab, where a crown is custom designed and made. You will leave the first appointment with a temporary crown placed over your natural tooth to hold that space so the permanent crown fits perfectly.
The second appointment is usually two to three weeks later, after the lab has finished your permanent crown. You come in, the temporary crown is removed, and the permanent crown is cemented in place. Patients usually do not need to be numbed for this visit, and it is a much shorter, easier visit than the first one.
Caring For Your Crown
A common question we get asked is “how long does a crown last?” Well…that depends on a lot of factors. The mouth is a complicated place, there is a lot going on in there! Constant chewing, biting into things, saliva and bacteria floating around, some people clench or grind their teeth…you get the picture.
The main factor in how long a crown will last is you, the patient! It depends on how well you maintain and take care of it. Dental crowns do not eliminate the possibility of tooth decay at the margin of the crown (where the crown meets your natural tooth) or something else happening to that tooth. However, if you take care your crown, a good quality crown can last anywhere from 10-15 years, or even longer. Some patients have the same crown on a tooth for 30 years or more. Just as with your natural teeth, it is very important to brush and floss around the area of the crown to avoid any build-up or decay getting in that area.
Front View of tooth to be crowned. Notice the crack and the decay below the gum line
Here the natural tooth has been “prepped” – the cracked and decayed portion of the natural tooth has been removed. The tooth is prepared with a slight taper to help secure the crown.
The new crown is being put in place. Observe how the carefully prepared replacement will fit under the gum tissue to hide the junction between tooth and crown.
Bridges are one way to replace a missing tooth or a section of missing teeth. Because they are custom-made, bridges are barely noticeable and can restore the natural look of your smile as well as the proper bite relationship between the upper and lower teeth.
When a lost tooth is replaced with a bridge, the teeth on either side of the missing tooth are “prepped” just like a regular crown (see description above) to serve as anchors to hold the replacement tooth in place. Bridges are permanent, fixed units, they are not removable like a partial denture.
Dr. Greenhalgh will help you restore the aesthetic appearance of your smile. If a bridge is necessary he will work with you to decide the materials and color matching considerations.
Caring For Your Bridge
Like crowns, bridges must be properly cleaned and maintained. Flossing is extremely important if you have a bridge, it keeps the gum tissue underneath the replacement tooth from becoming inflamed or infected and also prevents bone loss. Also take special care to brush and floss around the anchoring crowns to keep the restoration of those teeth healthy and increase the life of your bridge. If you have any questions about bridges call our El Paso dental office and we will answer all of your questions.
The teeth on either side of the extracted or missing tooth are prepared like crowns (see above for information on crown preps.)
The bridge is cemented in place. The surrounding crowned teeth provide a strong support for the replacement tooth.