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Most Asked Questions About Dental Crowns and Bridges

January 11, 2023

Did you break or crack a tooth? A trusted cosmetic dentist in Denver, CO, might suggest crowns or bridges to address this issue. These restorative solutions will help prevent pain or discomfort while eating or speaking, reduce your risk of tooth decay or infection, and protect your tooth against further damage that might lead to tooth loss. We’ve pulled together the answers to the most asked questions about dental crowns and bridges to help you make an informed decision.

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What You Should Know About Dental Crowns and Bridges

What’s the Difference Between a Crown and a Bridge?

A dental crown is a cap made of porcelain, metal, or ceramic metal that the dentist places over a chipped, cracked, broken, decayed, or damaged tooth to replace its protective enamel layer. Moreover, they also use crowns to improve a smile’s appearance for cosmetic purposes. For instance, crowns can correct severely stained, discolored, or misshapen teeth.

Alternatively, a dental bridge is a tooth replacement solution that uses two crowns, one on each side of the gap from a missing tooth. Moreover, the crowns cover two healthy-rooted adjacent teeth, called abutments. One or two pontics or replacement teeth are attached to the bridge's center. These pontics are designed to match the surrounding natural teeth.

How Do I Know If I Need a Crown or a Bridge?

Your dentist will determine if you’re a good candidate for a crown or bridge after conducting a complete health examination, including your oral health. They’ll review your medical history and take pictures of your teeth.  

Since a dental crown only serves as a superficial covering, your dentist needs to use X-rays to confirm if your tooth's inner parts are healthy enough to support the crown. You're likely a good candidate for bridgework if you're a good candidate for a dental crown and looking for a reasonably secure and semi-permanent solution for one or two missing teeth. Your dentist will discuss your treatment options based on your situation.

Do Crowns and Bridges Require a Root Canal Treatment?

Dentists use root canal treatment to save an infected or damaged tooth. During the procedure, they'll remove the tooth's soft center, called the pulp, which consists of nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels. Once they remove injured, inflamed, or infected pulp, they'll use special tools to clean the tooth's canals and disinfect the area. Next, they'll use a sealer paste and rubber-like material called gutta-percha to fill and seal the tooth. Lastly, they'll use a soft, temporary material to fill the small opening in the top of the tooth to protect the root canals against further damage.

Contrary to popular belief, root canal therapy isn't a requirement for crowns or bridgework. However, it might be necessary if you're dealing with an infected tooth. After evaluating your situation, you can trust your dentist to recommend the best treatment.

What Are the Benefits of Dental Crowns and Bridges?

Both dental solutions can improve your quality of life and bring you to a place of complete overall health.  

Dental crowns protect a threatened tooth’s structure. Besides offering physical protection, crowns add aesthetic advantage because they restore the tooth’s natural shape. Your dentist can match the color of your crown to the color of the neighboring teeth to ensure a perfect smile. Since crowns are made from high-quality and durable materials, they last the longest compared to most dental restorations.

Like crowns, bridgework restores dental functionality. For instance, it allows you to chew without pain or discomfort because the bridge distributes equal bite pressure while chewing. Since a dental bridge replaces one or more teeth, it restores your ability to form words in your mouth and brings clarity to your speech. In addition, a bridge can give you a healthy and beautiful smile that lasts.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Dental Crown or a Bridge?

Traditional dental crowns usually take two to three weeks from start to finish. This period includes the initial appointment, where the dentist prepares the tooth and takes impressions of your teeth, and the final appointment, where the dentist fits you for your custom-made crowns. However, a new same-day technology (CEREC) allows the dentist to complete the entire process within three hours.

Alternatively, a traditional dental bridge can take three to four weeks, from start to finish, from your first tooth preparation to the final appointment, where the dentist places the permanent bridge.

It’s important to note that the type of procedure and your case determines the time it takes to get a dental crown or bridge. However, your dentist can give you a more accurate estimate based on your unique needs.

a Cosmetic Dentist in Denver CO checking a patient's dental restoration

How Long Will These Dental Solutions Last?

With proper care and maintenance, a high-quality crown should serve you well for more than a decade, while a dental bridge can last for more than two decades. However, it's important to note that your oral health and hygiene habits can significantly impact the length of time these dental solutions can last in your mouth.

How Can I Take Care of My New Smile?

If you want to enjoy your brand-new smile for longer, it’s best to avoid hard and sticky foods, stop using your teeth as tools, quit smoking if you’re a smoker, use a night guard if you have bruxism, and practice excellent oral hygiene.  

Avoid Hard and Sticky Foods

While your dental restorations are known for their strength and durability, they're not indestructible. Since chewing on hard candies or ice subjects your crown or bridge to undue force or pressure, it increases your chances of chipping, cracking, or breaking your crown or bridge. Likewise, eating sticky or chewy foods like taffy or caramel can dislodge your restoration.

Stop Using Your Teeth as Tools

Moreover, using your teeth to open a bottle or tear open a package can cause considerable damage to your crown or bridge by putting them under excessive force. In addition, using your teeth as tools can also hurt your gums and put your natural teeth at risk of damage.

Quit Smoking

Besides leaving stains on your crown or bridge or making them appear yellow or discolored, smoking increases your risk of gum disease. This condition causes the gum tissue to pull away from your teeth and create gaps between your natural tooth and restoration. You'll eventually lose your restoration and natural teeth unless you kick your smoking habit.

Use a Night Guard

Grinding or clenching your teeth during sleep can take a serious toll on your restorations. While regular biting exerts 200 lbs. of pressure per square inch, grinding and clenching increase that pressure significantly. If you want to reduce your restoration's risk of breaking, it's best to ask your dentist about custom night guards that cushion teeth and protect your restoration while you sleep.

Practice Excellent Oral Hygiene

You can make your crown or bridge last longer by brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing daily, rinsing with an ADA-approved antimicrobial mouthwash, and visiting your dentist every six months for checkups and cleanings.

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