Crowns and bridges are fixed prosthetic devices. Unlike removable devices such as dentures, which can be taken out and cleaned daily, crowns and bridges are cemented into position, and can only be removed by a dentist.
A crown completely covers or "caps" a damaged tooth. This can help in strengthening a damaged tooth, as well as improve its appearance, shape or alignment. Crowns can also be placed on implants (see “Dental Implants”). Porcelain or ceramic crowns are matched to the colour of your own 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 metal is often used because it is both strong and aesthetically pleasing.
Your dentist may recommend a crown for the following reasons:
A bridge may be recommended if you are missing a few teeth. The bridge fills the space where the teeth are missing and is cemented to the natural teeth next to the empty space. These teeth serve as the anchors for the bridge. Your dentist will decide which material to use, based on which tooth is missing, as well as its function, aesthetic considerations and cost.
First of all, the tooth (or teeth) must be prepared so that the crown or bridge will fit over it properly. Then an impression will be taken to provide an exact mold and the correct shade will be decided on for the crown or bridge to match your existing teeth. The impression will be sent to a dental laboratory where the crown or bridge will be made. A temporary crown or bridge will be put in place while the permanent crown or bridge is being made. When the permanent crown or bridge is ready, the temporary crown is removed, and the new permanent crown or bridge is cemented into position.
Crowns and bridges can last a lifetime, however, they do sometimes come loose and need re-cementing. To ensure the longevity of your crown or bridge, good oral hygiene and daily flossing is imperative.
A cantilever bridge is slightly different. It replaces a missing tooth when there is no tooth in the back available to attach a conventional bridge. This type of bridge usually only replaces one tooth. A cantilever bridge is attached to two teeth in front of, or behind the space, and the artificial tooth extends off of these attached crowns, replacing your missing tooth.
A Maryland Bridge replaces a single tooth and has ‘wings’ on either side of the replacement tooth. The wings are cemented into place on the back of the teeth to either side of the space where the replacement tooth fits.
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