Crowns, Implants - Dental Terms 101 in Phoenix, AZ - Ahwatukee


Dental terminology can leave many feeling unsure and uninformed as it is not how most people talk so it can contribute to an uneasy or anxious feeling. While we always encourage our patients to ask questions if anything is not explained to your satisfaction, having a little knowledge of the lingo before an appointment is always helpful. To increase your ease and comfort, read on to demystify dental terminology.


Dental Crown 

You don’t have to be royalty to have a crown in dentistry. This is a term used for a laboratory or CEREC created porcelain restoration that covers all or most of the tooth that can be seen naturally in our mouth (other materials can be used, but this is nearly always our first choice). A crown is necessary when there is extensive damage to a tooth because this complete coverage offers the best long term prognosis. You will be numb for this procedure so you are comfortable while Dr. Todd Holton removes the broken, cracked and/or diseased parts of your tooth. The healthy root of your tooth remains as does some healthy tooth structure, although the tooth will be smaller in size. This gives the laboratory room to create a “replacement” tooth, sometimes called a “cap”, to fit over the smaller tooth. Once this porcelain crown is cemented onto your underlying tooth, it looks and functions just as a natural tooth. You will still need to brush, floss and use a water pick daily to maintain the health of this restored tooth.

Dental Build-ups

This procedure is often needed when your tooth is already so damaged that it needs a crown as described above, however, there is not enough healthy tooth structure left to support a crown once the damaged portion of the tooth is removed. In these situations, after eliminating the unhealthy part of the tooth, Dr. Holton will then rebuild a solid foundation allowing the crown to be attached with reliable success.

Crown Lengthening

There are times when a tooth needs a build-up and a crown, but there is not enough tooth structure above the gumline to allow for these without some preliminary treatment. Crown lengthening creates enough visible tooth structure to allow for the build-up and crown procedures to be completed by removing some gum tissue and often bone as well. Again, the patient is completely numb for this procedure so they are comfortable and recovery is generally quick with little discomfort. Some time elapses between the crown lengthening procedure and the preparation for a crown.

Dental Implants

Permanent teeth can be lost or missing for a variety of reasons. However, we can replace a missing adult tooth with a dental implant and implant crown. There are three components when replacing a missing tooth. The dental implant itself is a very small titanium screw that actually integrates with the jaw bone and replicates the natural tooth root. The implant crown is a laboratory fabricated replica of the tooth and the connection between the implant and crown is obtained with another titanium piece called an abutment. Together, these three pieces give the patient back the anatomy that was lost or missing and functions very similarly to a natural tooth. Implants need proper brushing, flossing and water pick use just as a natural tooth does. They have been successfully utilized within dentistry for several decades and are often the best option for replacing a missing tooth.

Dental Bridge

There are times when a tooth is lost or missing and a dental implant will not work for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, a situation that cannot be fixed with an implant can be treated with a dental bridge. This may be an option if you have teeth with healthy bone on either side of the missing tooth that are stable enough to have crowns placed on both of them. A predictable outcome is best achieved when no more than one missing tooth is replaced, which is called a 3 unit bridge as it has two crowns and one prosthetic tooth formed into one piece. Dr. Holton will cement the bridge to the two prepared adjacent teeth which holds up the fabricated tooth in the middle to fill the empty space. Once cemented onto the teeth, it is not removable and does not move around in the mouth. There is no replacement of the missing root in this process as there is with a dental implant. The center “tooth” is just sitting on top of the gum tissue and is supported by the adjacent crowns. You will need to floss or water pick under this center “tooth” to keep this area of your mouth healthy. Dental bridges are becoming less desirable as dental implants have become the standard of care. However, there are still times when a dental bridge may be the best treatment option. Dr. Holton can assess your mouth and give you their expert opinion on which option will be best for you and why.

Partial Denture

This restorative option is an older approach to dentistry and many people with partial dentures tend to be a little more mature. A partial denture, often simply called a partial, is a laboratory fabricated replacement for multiple teeth that is removable. The laboratory collaborates with the dentist to place replications of missing teeth into a metal structure that clasps onto remaining, natural teeth. This design can place increased force on the teeth that are used to support the partial during normal daily use like eating. This force can cause future problems and, therefore, this is usually a last choice for treatment. Another more flexible material can sometimes be used to make a partial denture which puts less strain on the remaining teeth.

Conventional or Implant Supported Denture

If all of the teeth are lost in the upper or lower arch of the mouth, the only option available is a full upper or lower denture or both. Traditionally, these are laboratory created teeth that are molded to a tissue colored substructure that fits the remaining ridge of bone left behind after the teeth are lost. Since we begin losing bone in our jaws when a tooth is lost, commonly there is little bone left for the dentures to fit upon and they tend to move around when eating and sometimes even when speaking. If they do not fit well, they will create sore spots in the mouth and produce anxiety about slipping during social interaction. Fortunately, we can now capitalize on dental implant technology to firmly secure dentures into the remaining jaw. This is an implant supported denture and this type of restoration not only provides additional patient comfort, it also relieves anxiety over unwanted movement of a denture while eating or speaking. Additionally, implant supported dentures are designed without a layer of plastic over the palate as is present in a conventional denture, thus allowing for clarity in speech and no loss of taste.

Contact Us

Hopefully, this brief explanation of a few select dental terms will help you feel more involved in your dental visits. Feel free to ask us questions any time you would like a more detailed explanation about these or any other dental terms so you can be a fully informed participant in your dental care.




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Crowns, Implants - Dental Terms 101 in Phoenix, AZ - Ahwatukee