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Common Dental Problems and FAQs - Crowns and Bridges

What is a crown?
A crown is a hollow cap that fits over a tooth, giving it strength and/or improving its appearance. The supporting tooth has to be reduced in size to make room for the crown. Crowns may be made from a variety of materials.

Why has my dentist suggested a crown?
Crowns are indicated for teeth, which are too extensively decayed, damaged or discoloured for treatment by other means.

Preparing a tooth for a crown
The tooth to be crowned may require root filling or rebuilding with a "build-up core" material before the dentist drills the tooth to a "peg" shape for the crown. Tooth preparation for a crown is normally done under a local anaesthetic and takes approximately 15 to 45 minutes per tooth. It should be painless. The dentist then takes an impression of the prepared tooth/teeth, which is sent to a laboratory where the crown is made. A temporary crown is then fitted to maintain the appearance, and keep the tooth comfortable and in the correct position.

Fitting the crown
The quality of the final crown depends both on the skill of the dentist and the technician. At the fitting visit, the temporary crown is removed and the new crown tried in, to assess that it has an adequate appearance, fit, shape, and the occlusion is correct. The crown is finally cemented with a dental cement.

How long will a crown or a bridge last?
A well made crown or bridge, in a situation where the overall dental outlook is favourable, should last for 10 or more years.

Why do crowns fail?
Sometimes the supporting tooth under a crown decays – this is more likely when the crown does not fit tightly to the underlying tooth. Some crowns come off repeatedly, even shortly after being fitted. In these circumstances the reason for the failure may be a poorly fitting crown, or a crown shape or bite which is not right for that tooth. In those circumstances a replacement crown will be required.

What are bridges?
A bridges is a way of replacing a missing tooth with a fixed solution. There are many different designs of bridges, but the most common is a fixed bridge, which is made by placing crowns on the teeth either side of the space, and then joining the crowns together by placing a solid crown in the space to replace the missing tooth. Because this type of bridge uses joined crowns, cleaning the teeth in the area will be more difficult. A well-designed bridge should allow effective daily cleaning.

What goes wrong with bridges?
Just like crowns, a bridge must fit the supporting teeth tightly – if not, then cleaning the bridge will be difficult and the teeth supporting the bridge may decay or get gum disease. Sometimes a bridge will come off repeatedly. This may be due to a variety of factors but the size, shape, and relationship to opposing teeth should be considered as possible problems as well as the way the bridge fits on the supporting teeth.

Our service is only available in respect of treatment provided in England and Wales. The documents contained in this web site are presented for information purposes only, and neither the material, nor the responses to questions are intended to replace professional dental care or attention by a qualified practitioner. The materials in this web site cannot, and should not, be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of dental treatment. Askthedentist strongly advises all users with dental problems to consult a dentist.