Types of Replacement Teeth
Dentures, crowns, bridges and onlays – all of these are options to replace lost teeth. But what exactly is the difference between them, and why would your dentist recommend one over the other?
When all or most teeth are missing or damaged beyond repair due to an injury or tooth decay, dentures may be the most prudent course of action. Dentures help to preserve the natural look of your facial structure and allow you to go back to eating many of the foods you were forced to avoid while biting and chewing were a challenge. In some cases, where a few teeth are still present and strong enough to provide structural support, a partial denture may be used.
If a tooth is damaged but not lost, a dental crown might be used to repair the tooth. You may also know dental crowns by the term “cap.” Essentially, a crown is a hollow tooth that is permanently affixed to the tooth it is replacing. The tooth being replaced is filed down allowing the crown to sit on top. Once applied, teeth repaired with a dental crown look and function very much like natural teeth. Crowns are a permanent replacement method made in a variety of materials, and your dentist will help choose the right one for your specific case.
Bridges may be used as an alternative to dentures if the surrounding teeth around the one(s) to be replaced are in relatively good shape because they hold the replacement tooth or teeth in place. Bridges are similar to crowns, but they are supported by the teeth on either side of the missing one, therefore literally “bridging” the gap between them.
Dental onlays are often described as the halfway point between a filling and a crown. When the tooth is too badly damaged for a filling, a dental onlay can preserve the structure of the tooth. While porcelain has come a long way in increased strength and durability, the majority of these dental onlays are made in gold, making them good choices for teeth at the back of the mouth.
Your dentist can provide recommendations for the best tooth replacement options for your particular needs. Before you decide which method you will choose to replace lost or damaged teeth, be sure to check your health and dental insurance policy to ensure you are maximizing your coverage benefits.