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Bridges & Crowns

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What are dental bridges and crowns and are they for me?

Are you missing one or more teeth? If so, a dental bridge may be for you.  Dental bridges are often recommended to fill gaps left by one or more missing teeth. These prosthetic devices look like your natural teeth and serve to “bridge” the gap where the teeth are missing.

Losing one or more teeth creates large gaps between your teeth. Once this happens, your other teeth will begin to shift or rotate into the empty space left by the missing teeth. When this happens, the result is an unnatural bite. These unnatural bites can be dangerous, they lead to an imbalance in your bite that can promote gum disease and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, and can eventually cause you to lose even more teeth. One great solution to this problem is a dental bridge.

Dental crowns, also known as “Caps”, are natural looking “teeth” that are cemented to fully cover your existing tooth above the gum line. Crowns have a number of functions. They can be used to hold dental bridges in place or to support teeth that have large fillings in them.  They are also a great way to restore cracks, chips, injuries, or discolorations of the teeth.

How are bridges and crowns made? What will happen at my dental appointment?

Dental bridges are permanent teeth that are cemented to either natural teeth or implants that surround the gap left by your missing teeth. The teeth on either side of the gap are used to anchor the bridge. These anchor teeth will be crowned, a crown will also be placed on the bridge to replace the missing tooth or teeth. These crowns will ensure that you have a strong support for the bridge as well as provide for a more natural looking smile.

The location and function of your missing tooth or teeth will help you and Dr. McCargar to determine what kind of materials should be used for your dental bridge. If you are missing a tooth or teeth that are visible when you smile, porcelain or ceramic bridges can be created to match the color of your natural teeth.

Once you and Dr. McCargar have decided on the type of material that will be used to construct your bridge, your teeth will be prepared for your new dental bridge.  First, Dr. McCargar will reduce the size of your anchor teeth and prepare them for crowns. Next, he will use an elastic material to make an impression of the area where the dental bridge will be placed. Plaster or dental stone will be poured into this elastic impression and an exact copy of your teeth will be made. An exact mold of your teeth is an important step in the process, as it ensures that your new bridge will be constructed to perfectly fit your mouth. This mold is then used by the dental lab to create your dental bridge.

Dental bridges usually take two to three weeks to be created by the lab. During this time, a temporary acrylic bridge will be placed in your mouth to protect the prepared teeth and to close the gap. Once the permanent bridge is ready, the temporary bridge will be removed and the new bridge will be cemented in place.

Like dental bridges, crowns require that your tooth be reduced in size and prepared for the crown(s). Once prepared, Dr. McCargar will make an impression and mold of the tooth being crowned and send that impression to the lab for your new crown to be constructed. As with dental bridges, crowns come in a variety of materials and can be made out of porcelain so that they match your natural teeth.

As with bridges, crowns need two to three weeks to be created by the lab. Following the preparation of your tooth for your new crown, you will be fitted with a temporary crown to cover and protect your tooth. Once the permanent crown is ready, Dr. McCargar will remove the temporary crown, check the color and fit of the permanent crown, and then cement it into place.

What are the risks associated with dental bridges and crowns?

Dental bridges are an excellent way to solve the problem of missing teeth with few problems and very little risk. In the weeks following the placement of a bridge, teeth can become mildly sensitive to temperature changes. Additionally, without proper oral hygiene, food and bacteria can accumulate between the bridge and the supporting teeth and gums, resulting in tooth decay and/or gum disease.

Newly crowned teeth can experience a mild sensitivity to temperature changes. Brushing your teeth with toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth can often help remedy this problem. In addition, crowns can sometimes chip, become loose, or fall off. Should this occur, the crown may need to be replaced.

How long do crowns and bridges last and how do I care for them?

With proper care, crowns can last between 5 and 15 years, and dental bridges can last a lifetime. To ensure their longevity, it is essential that you practice good oral hygiene. Make sure to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and have regular dental checkups and cleanings. When flossing around crowns, make sure to pay close attention to the area where the crown and the tooth come together. Dental bridges are one piece, and require a special type of floss to be used to keep the gums under the bridge healthy.

In addition to good oral hygiene and care, you can prevent damage to your crowns and bridges by avoiding chewing on ice or other hard foods or objects.

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