A dental crown is somewhat like a hat or cap that is fitted over the top of a weakened or damaged tooth. It helps to keep the tooth and its internal fillings from breaking and can help the tooth to last for a longer period of time than it otherwise might.

Crowns can be made of gold, metal, porcelain or a combination. The type of crown used in each case is influenced by your preference and the circumstances facing each tooth.

When Does a Tooth Need a Crown?

If a tooth has been heavily filled, deeply decayed, chipped, cracked, weakened or is bearing heavy chewing pressures, Dr Teo may recommend a crown. Sometimes a tooth might be crowned for cosmetic reasons, to improve its appearance.

Can a Crown Fix Any Damage to a Tooth?

Unfortunately not. Some teeth are so badly damaged by decay or fracture that they are simply not salvageable.

A dental crown protects the external part of the tooth from further damage. By encasing the tooth, a crown

  • prevents further fractures
  • minimises the propagation rate of existing cracks in the tooth.

Teeth requiring crowns have usually been damaged by deep dental decay. This decay may have been close to the nerve (also known as the dental pulp). If the dental pulp has been affected by the presence of decay, the placement of a crown is unlikely to reverse it.

Sometimes the nerve dies, and the tooth becomes painful. In these cases, root canal therapy may be required.

While crowns themselves cannot decay, the tooth structure underneath them can, so your crowns must be cleaned carefully and thoroughly every day. Fortunately, this is usually as easy as cleaning your natural teeth: brushing and flossing regularly are the key.

Dental Bridges

A dental bridge is used to fill a space between two teeth where a natural tooth used to be. It’s one of several methods of replacing missing teeth.

When Are Bridges Used?

A bridge consists of two crowns with one or more artificial teeth (called pontics) suspended between them. The crowns are cemented or bonded to the teeth on either side of the space, and these hold the pontic(s) in the space, effectively replacing the missing tooth or teeth.

Bridges are most often used if the teeth on either side of the space are heavily filled or weakened and are likely candidates for a dental crown. The bridge thus has two functions: it protects the adjacent teeth and replaces the missing tooth or teeth.

If the adjacent teeth have never been filled or only have small fillings, an implant or a Maryland (bonded) bridge may be recommended instead.

A bridge might also be placed in areas where there is not enough bone to support a dental implant.

Taking Care of Your Crowns and Bridges

Bridges must be kept very clean

  • to reduce the chances of decay in the underlying teeth and
  • to avoid gum disease around either of the supporting teeth.

If you have a bridge, Dr Teo will show you the most effective way to clean under the bridge using special floss or interdental brushes.

How Long Do Crowns and Bridges Last?

The lifespan of a dental crown or bridge will be affected by many factors, including

  • the quality of home care they receive
  • the types of foods and beverages consumed
  • the number and type of injuries that occur (for example, sporting injuries)
  • heavy biting forces such as teeth grinding.

Generally, well-looked-after crowns and bridges can remain in the mouth for many years, even decades. Improvements in technology and materials have produced even longer life spans for aesthetically pleasing crowns and bridges.