Restorative Dentistry Will Make You Smile!
Improving Your Appearance with Cosmetic Crowns and Bridges
By Judy Latta
Astrong and healthy smile does wonders for your self-esteem and confidence. While most people are not born with perfect movie-star smiles, advancements in modern dentistry over the past 20 years have made it possible to have
the smile you want with the help of your dentist. As with other medically administered cosmetic enhancements, demand for cosmetic dental procedures has never been greater. This is particularly the case with the advent of sedation dentistry, a form of dental care that treats patients with medication to allow them to remain calm and pain-free throughout a procedure.
One solution for dealing with blemishes to your smile, such as damaged, missing, discolored or unsightly teeth, is dental restoration using crowns and bridges. Crowns and bridges are often prescribed by dentists to address dental health problems, but as they are less expensive than dental implants, they are also often recommended for elective cosmetic dentistry.
A dental crown is a custom-made cap that looks like a tooth that fits over an existing damaged or unsightly tooth to restore its appearance, functionality and strength. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “A crown can make your tooth stronger and improve its appearance. It can cover and support a tooth with a large filling when there isn’t enough tooth left. It can be used to attach a bridge, protect a weak tooth from breaking or restore one that’s already broken. A crown is a good way to cover teeth that are discolored or badly shaped.”
A dental bridge is a prosthesis that fills a gap of one or more teeth missing due to decay or injury. Using surrounding healthy teeth as a foundation, a bridge consists of crowns fitted to the teeth on either side of the gap to stabilize custom made artificial teeth in between to fill the gap. The two anchoring teeth are called abutment teeth and the artificial teeth in between are called pontics. According to the ADA, “Bridges help maintain the shape of your face, as well as alleviate the stress in your bite by replacing missing teeth. Sometimes called a fixed partial denture, a bridge replaces missing teeth with artificial teeth, looks great, and literally bridges the gap where one or more teeth may have been.”
Materials for Crowns and Bridges
The appearance and durability of crowns and bridges is dependent on the use of high-quality restorative materials. The most common materials used for constructing crowns and bridges are porcelain/ceramic, porcelain fused to metal, and metal alloys. Your dentist can recommend the appropriate material for meeting your needs based on your personal considerations, such as location of the tooth in the mouth (the back teeth are generally constructed of stronger material), esthetics (the best match to your existing teeth), compatibility with your gum tissue, and cost.
It is important to note that the long-term durability and appearance of your restorative dental work will also be dependent on your oral hygiene. Crowns and bridges require the same level of care and attention as natural teeth.
Major Cosmetic Dentistry: Factors to Consider
The Columbia University College of Dental Medicine has a primer on factors to take into account when considering cosmetic dentistry. The primer suggests that while there’s never been a better time to brighten your smile or fix imperfections, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering dental enhancements:
• It can be expensive. Insurance doesn’t cover most cosmetic procedures.
• Materials aren’t indestructible. Crowns, inlays and veneers are stronger and more durable than they used to be, but they won’t last forever. They may crack or chip or the cement may weaken. They may have to be redone within 10 to 15 years.
• It’s important to be realistic. Cosmetic dentists are enhancers. They can manipulate, shape and polish materials to create dazzling smiles. What they can’t do is change the shape of your mouth or your overall appearance. In order for tooth restorations to truly look natural, they have to work for you. Cosmetic dentistry can improve your appearance; it won’t completely transform it.
It should also be noted that in order to fit a crown, a tooth must be ground down so that the crown can be mounted. From that point on, the prepared tooth/teeth will always require a crown or will have to be replaced at some point with an implant.
Crowns and Bridges for Traditional Dental Problems
Of course, in addition to improving your smile, restorative dental crowns and bridges can repair damaged teeth, correct the alignment of your bite, and treat other complex dental problems. It is important to keep in mind that dental defects not only tarnish your smile but can also adversely affect your overall health and well-being.
Missing or malformed teeth can create undue stress on surrounding teeth, and can cause other teeth to shift, which could eventually lead to gum disease, additional tooth loss and/or a misaligned jaw line. Ultimately, the imbalance created by shifting teeth can cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. The Mayo Clinic defines TMJ disorder as “tenderness and pain in the joint on each side of your head in front of your ears, where your lower jawbone meets your skull.” Untreated dental defects also can lead to serious problems such as significant oral and/or facial pain and difficulty with eating and sometimes even speech.
Additionally, untreated infections of the mouth from tooth decay and gum disease can lead to harmful bacteria traveling to other parts of the body. As a result, oral health problems have been linked to bodily health maladies such as heart disease and respiratory conditions.
Thus, it is imperative not only for the sake of your appearance, but also for your overall well-being to take care of dental problems as they arise. In some cases, crowns and bridges may be deemed by a dentist to be the best solution to your complicated dental problems.