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When teeth are missing, discolored, weak, or broken, dentists often use various types of dental ceramics to restore or replace them. There are a vast variety of dental ceramics available including crowns, bridges, veneers, and dentures. Each type is made specifically for an individual patient by a dental technician. The technician uses a mold provided by the patient’s dentist to ensure that each replacement is properly fitted. All dental ceramics are prescribed and put in place by prosthodontists — dentists specializing in the replacement and restoration of teeth.
If a person has damaged a tooth, his or her dentist may prescribe a crown. Crowns are a type of dental ceramic that fits over the existing tooth and helps to protect it. A crown may also be prescribed to protect a weak tooth from damage. Discolored or misshapen teeth can also benefit from crowns. If a cavity is so severe that there is not enough tooth left after the filling is placed, a crown may also be inserted to protect the tooth.
Missing teeth may cause facial muscles to sag and may cause changes in speech and difficulty in eating. They also can put undo stress on the remaining teeth. To correct this, dentists use dental ceramics called bridges. Bridges, also called partial dentures, are a row of fake teeth that span the area of missing teeth. With most bridges, crowns are placed over the teeth surrounding the area of missing teeth. The bridge is then bonded to the crowns in order to provide support.
Age, disease, or injury can cause a person to completely lose their teeth. Dentures are a removable set of teeth made for a specific patient. Both conventional and immediate dentures are available for dentists to prescribe. With conventional dentures, the doctor will remove any remaining teeth, wait until the gums are healed, and then place the dentures. Dentists can also fit and measure the gum before the teeth are removed so that the patient can have the dentures immediately. The drawback with immediate dentures is that the gum can shrink after healing and the dentures may not fit as well over time.
Veneers are dental ceramics used in cosmetic dentistry to fill in gaps in a patient’s mouth or to cover discolored or badly shaped teeth. Veneers are thin caps placed over a patient’s existing teeth to make them look whiter or shapelier. The process of installing a veneer is usually an irreversible one. The reason for this is because a patient’s existing teeth need to be filed down in order to accommodate the new covers. Drinking staining liquids such as tea and coffee may be prohibited for these patients because they may permanently stain the veneers.