A Patient Guide to Crowns and Fillings0
When a tooth becomes damaged or decayed, your dentist may recommend a crown or filling. Crowns and fillings are both means to protect the tooth from further destruction. Which one is right for you? It depends on a number of factors. Though these are common terms, many people are unaware of how each functions. Let’s explore the reasons why these methods would be recommended and how they work.
When Are Crowns and Fillings Necessary?
Dentists recommend crowns and fillings to patients who have experienced mouth trauma. This can result from something big, like a car accident, or something as small as biting into a piece of bone. In any of these instances, if a tooth is cracked, it must be fixed. If left unattended, bacteria can leak into these holes and cause an array of health concerns.
Tooth Decay and Plaque
More often than not, tooth decay is the reason for a crown or filling. Though we often think of decayed teeth as completed rotted, even small cavities are versions of decay. In many cases, a patient doesn’t notice these issues until they’re in advanced stages.
Tooth decay begins when bacteria of the mouth feeds on sugars you consume. The developing plaque becomes acidic over time. These acids slowly dissolve the tooth’s enamel. When caught at this stage, a dentist can remove the plaque and suggest specialized toothpastes to address the issue.
When plaque is left in the mouth, it makes its way into the dentin layer of the tooth, which is comprised of nerve endings that become irritated—leading to pain and discomfort. This area of the tooth is softer than enamel, causing decay to accelerate.
If bacteria move all the way to the tooth’s root, pain increases. At this point, there may be additional health concerns. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream through root systems, a process which has been linked to increased risks of heart disease and diabetes. This is partly why dentists take tooth decay seriously, even when it’s small. Most dentists will avoid pulling teeth unless absolutely necessary, as it disrupts bite patterns. This is where fillings and crowns come in.
When Are Fillings Appropriate?
If your dentist finds mild to moderate forms of decay, he or she may recommend fillings. These are also used for patients who have unusually worn teeth due to grinding or intensive nail biting. Dentists will assess the teeth visually and use a small metal instrument to probe the decayed areas. In some cases, dyes are also used to pinpoint cavities.
The Fillings Dental Procedure
To prepare for a filling, the dentist clears away decayed areas with a miniature drill or laser. Once all of the decay has been removed from the tooth, the area is thoroughly disinfected. The material your dentist uses to fill the tooth will depend on the location and severity of the cavity.
Many dentists will place a fluoride-based liquid liner into the newly cleaned area first. This helps prevent further decay. Filling material, which is molded to match the surface of your tooth, follows this.
Fillings are remarkably strong and made to last. However, there’s still the risk that they can crack or come out over the years. It’s vital to maintain good oral hygiene after fillings are placed. Brushing with fluoride-based toothpaste twice a day, flossing daily, and using an antibacterial mouthwash each night should be part of your normal routine. If any cracks, holes, or sensitivity develops in the filled tooth, call your dentist right away.
When Are Crowns Appropriate?
Why Do You Need A Crown?
For some patients, a filling won’t completely address their needs. Crowns are used when there isn’t enough natural tooth left to sustain a filling, when a tooth is severely cracked or weakened, or after a root canal. In some instances, crowns are also used to cover poorly shaped or discolored teeth.
What Are Crowns?
A crown caps the tooth entirely, adding structural support and protection. Many crowns are made of porcelain, though metal alloys, acrylic, and ceramic are sometimes used. Crowns are molded to fit the patient, so they fit properly and replicate normal teeth. The damaged tooth is reduced in size to make room for the crown, and then the dentist creates molds. Patients will use a temporary crown while the impressions are sent to a dental laboratory. Once the dentist completes the custom crown, he or she cements it into the mouth. See the video below for an overview of this procedure.
Crowns are designed to last a lifetime. However, it’s the patient’s responsibility to maintain oral habits that will allow this. Maintaining good hygiene will go a long way toward keeping the whole mouth healthy. By ensuring that surrounding teeth and bone are strong, you’re protecting your crown as well.
This article is courtesy of William Rice Dental. Dr. William Rice has been practicing dentistry in Athens, GA since 1982 and has over 30 years experience.
The mission of William G. Rice, DDS of Athens, GA is to improve the oral health in the patient population we serve by delivering the highest quality dental care and experience. Services are provided in a pleasant environment in our modern office. Patients are seen by a caring, experienced staff to insure a comfortable experience. Visit Dr. William Rice’s website today to learn more about his practice.