What are crowns, bridges and veneers?
Crowns (sometimes referred to as caps) are used to improve the appearance of teeth or to restore badly broken down teeth when there is insufficient tooth to hold a filling. They can be made of cast gold, precious and non precious metals and different ceramics (metal free) or a combination of metal and ceramic depending upon the specific needs of the treatment.
A bridge is a false tooth (that looks similar to a crown) used to replace a missing tooth or teeth and is attached to a tooth or teeth adjacent to the gap, by using adhesive attachments, inlays or crowns.
Veneers look like a crown or bridge “unit” but are a facing bonded (glued) on the outside of teeth to give them an improved appearance. They are usually made of porcelain. They are less destructive to teeth than crowns.
Whilst a crown or veneer are strong restorations it is important to be aware that not all crowns and veneers can be provided without additional problems. The underlying tooth can still break or it may require root treatment. If the pulp in the tooth becomes unhealthy after treatment. If further treatment is required this may result in additional cost. It is important that you understand why you are having a veneer, crown or bridge treatment, the cost, the time scale and the appointments needed.
A veneer, crown or bridge is usually provided in two stages. After a tooth has been prepared, (usually under local anaesthetic) an impression is taken and a temporary veneer, crown or bridge is fitted whilst a dental laboratory manufactures the device.
Temporary veneers, crowns and bridges are usually custom made in tooth coloured plastic material but temporary crowns may be pre made in metal. They are designed to last for a short period of time (your dentist will advise you how long in your specific case; but it is usually for two weeks). Temporary veneers, crowns and bridges are designed to be easily removed. It is important to plan your treatment to take this into account. They can come off and need to be put back on during the temporary stage.
Can anyone have veneers, crowns or bridges?
Veneers, crowns and bridges are not usually provided for young patients until the teeth and jaws are fully developed. It is also important that the gums and supporting bone are healthy. Good tooth brushing and the use of interdental cleaning such as dental floss are therefore essential before and following treatment. Your dentist will advise you about this.
How long do veneers, crowns and bridges last?
As long as the teeth and gums are maintained by both patient and dentist, veneers, crowns and bridges can last for many years. However no absolute guarantee can ever be given and they may need to be replaced in time. Your dentist is best placed to advise if there are particular reasons that may shorten the normal lifespan of a veneer, crown or bridge.
Are there any alternatives to veneers, crowns or bridgework?
If the tooth is badly broken down, or in poor shape then there may be no alternative to a crown. Sometimes porcelain veneers can be used instead. Plastic composite veneers are an alternative to porcelain veneers. There are alternatives to bridgework which may include implants. Your dentist will advise you as to the most suitable alternatives.