Crowns and Bridges
Both crowns and most bridges are permanently fixed in the mouth by being cemented onto existing teeth or implants and can only be removed by a dentist.
A crown is used to entirely cover or "cap" a damaged tooth. Besides strengthening a damaged tooth, a crown can be used to improve its appearance, shape or alignment. A crown can also be placed on top of an implant to provide a tooth-like shape and structure for function.
Nowadays, with the advancement in dental technology most crowns are made of ceramic to mimic the appearance and beauty of a healthy natural tooth.
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 jaw joint problems.
A bridge spans the space where the teeth are missing. Bridges are cemented to the natural teeth or implants surrounding the empty space. Your dentist can help you decide if this is a suitable option for you, based on the location of the missing tooth (or teeth), its function, aesthetic considerations and cost. Ceramic bridges can be matched to the colour of your natural teeth.
While crowns and bridges can last for many years, they do sometimes come loose or fall out. The most important step you can take to ensure the longevity of your crown or bridge is to practice good oral hygiene. A bridge can lose its support if the teeth or bone holding it in place are damaged by dental disease. Keep your gums and teeth healthy by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily. It is also very important to see your dentist and hygienist regularly for check-ups and professional cleaning to protect the investment you have made in your smile.
Dental implants are an artificial root that works like a natural one when a tooth and its root are missing, coupled with a crown on the dental implant this is the next best thing to a natural tooth.
A dental implant consists of a very small but strong post made of biocompatible titanium which is inserted into the jawbone in place of the missing tooth root. Such an implant acts as a support for the tooth and is surgically inserted under local anaesthetic. Until the implant is securely attached to the jawbone (a process called “osseointegration”), a healing phase of between 6 weeks and a few months is necessary, depending on the individual medical situation.
Once the implant has completed integration the final restoration (crown) can be created in a variety of materials, including natural looking ceramic materials.
Inlays and Onlays
These types of restorations are used to repair decayed or damaged teeth. They are recommended when your tooth needs more support than a regular filling and are made of a ceramic material to match the colour of your tooth.
Inlays are recommended to replace the inside biting portion of a tooth when the healthy structure remains on the outside biting portion of the tooth. Onlays are used to replace broken cusps or to add strength to compromised areas around the perimeter of the tooth.
Why can’t I just get a filling?
A large dental filling can weaken the remaining healthy structure of the tooth, causing the tooth to break, crack or eventually need root canal therapy. Inlays and onlays are used in situations where a filling is not suitable and the tooth needs more structural support.
What is the advantage of Inlays/Onlays over Crowns?
Inlays and onlays offer a conservative preparation that preserves as much healthy tooth as possible. They are not likely to discolour over time as tooth-coloured fillings can do. Laboratory made ceramic inlays and onlays have a precise fit hence your tooth can be easier to clean. An onlay can protect the weak areas of the tooth.
While your dentist always wants to provide you with restorative procedures that last you a long time, virtually no procedure can really be considered “permanent” in dentistry. Inlays and onlays will last between five and fifteen years on average, but this is mostly dependent on the amount of stress they endure and how well you look after them.
Root canal treatments
Sometime before a filling, crown or bridge can be placed, root canal treatment, also known as endodontics, is required. This is needed when the pulp tissues in the tooth have become infected or inflamed.
Treatment involves the removal of the infected pulp tissues from the canal in the root and is the first step in saving the tooth. Debris within the canals is removed by flushing with an anti-bacterial solution before the canals are finally filled or sealed and the tooth restored to full shape and function by either a permanent filling or in the case of a back tooth, with a crown.