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Crowns & Bridges

Crowns are synthetic caps, usually made of a material like porcelain, placed on the top of a tooth. A crown completely covers a tooth above the gum line. This is in contrast to a dental veneer, which only covers a tooth’s front surface and needs natural tooth structure to support it. Therefore, if a tooth is missing a significant amount of structure above the gum line, a crown would be the restoration of choice.  Bridges are natural-looking dental appliances that can replace a section of missing teeth. Because they are custom-made, bridges are barely noticeable and can restore the natural contour of teeth as well as the proper bite relationship between upper and lower teeth.  Crowns can be used in a bridge to create a lifelike replacement for a missing tooth. The bridgework spans the space of the missing tooth and requires at least three crowns.

Uses for Crowns

Crowns are typically used to restore a tooth’s function and appearance following a restorative procedure such as a root canal. When decay in a tooth has become so advanced that large portions of the tooth must be removed, crowns are often used to restore the tooth.  Crowns strengthen damaged teeth, allowing them to function normally again. When crafted from today’s high-tech porcelains (dental ceramics), crowns are virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth. They can even be designed to improve upon a tooth’s original appearance.  Crowns are also used to attach bridges, cover implants, prevent a cracked tooth from becoming worse, or an existing filling is in jeopardy of becoming loose or dislocated. 

Types of Crowns

There are other materials besides porcelain that we can use to make dental crowns, depending on what qualities are most important. For durability, cast gold can’t be beaten. However, this is not always the most aesthetic choice — especially towards the front of the mouth. Other possibilities include porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns (PFM), which have a metal interior for strength and a porcelain exterior for a more natural appearance, and all-porcelain crowns with zirconia, representing the strongest ceramic. We would be happy to discuss the pros and cons of these various options with you.  Bridges are sometimes referred to as fixed partial dentures because they are semi-permanent and are bonded to existing teeth or implants. There are several types of fixed dental bridges (cannot be removed), including conventional fixed bridges, cantilever bridges, and resin-bonded bridges. Some bridges are removable and can be cleaned by the wearer; others need to be removed by a dentist. There are also appliances called implant bridges are attached to an area below the gum tissue or the bone; porcelain, gold alloys or combinations of materials are usually used to make such bridge appliances.

Crowning or capping a tooth will usually take two to three visits. At the first visit, your tooth is prepared to receive its new crown. First, it is shaped to fit inside the new covering—a tooth must usually be reduced in size to accommodate a crown. This will involve some drilling to give the tooth a uniform shape. The tooth and the surrounding area will be numbed beforehand. If there is very little tooth structure left, to begin with, the tooth may have to be built up with filling material, rather than filed down, to support the crown.  After the tooth is prepared, impressions of your teeth are taken, either digitally or with reliable, putty-like impression materials, and sent to a special dental laboratory to create a custom-designed crown.  In some cases, before you leave the office, a temporary crown will be attached to your tooth to protect it until the permanent crown is ready.    There, the impressions will be used to make models of your teeth for the creation of a crown.  At the second visit, your permanent crown will be attached to your tooth with either a resin that hardens when exposed to a special light source, or a type of permanent cement.

Procedure for Crowns

Image of dentures

Caring for Your Crowns

With proper care, a good quality crown could last up to eight years or longer. It is very important to floss in the area of the crown to avoid excess plaque or collection of debris around the restoration.  Certain behaviors such as jaw clenching or bruxism (teeth grinding) significantly shorten the life of a crown. Moreover, eating brittle foods, ice or hard candy can compromise the adhesion of the crown, or even damage the crown.

Caring for Your Bridges

Bridgework requires the same conscientious care as a normal crown and your natural teeth. Be sure to brush and floss between all of your teeth — restored and natural — every day to reduce the buildup of dental plaque.   If you have a grinding habit, wearing a nightguard would be a good idea to protect your teeth and your investment.

The Full Digital Workflow

The evolution of digital technologies in dentistry has paved the way for the development of simplified and predictable protocols in restorative dentistry. Digital dental technologies, from intra-oral scanning, implant treatment planning and 3D printing, has allowed the seamless delivery of treatment that traditionally has been regarded as difficult and complex.  Schedule a consultation to learn how we incorporate digital technology into our treatment plans.

If your teeth are damaged, diseased, or missing altogether, Dr. Khan will use restorative dentistry to give you back your smile and help you eat comfortably again!  In our O'Connor Dentistry office, we offer a variety of restorative options that we can custom tailor to suit your needs.

Restorative Dentistry

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