Q: What's the difference between a "crown" and a "cap"?
A: Nothing. These are restorations to repair a severely broken tooth by covering all or most of the tooth after removing old fillings, fractured tooth structure, and all decay. The restoration material is generally made of gold, porcelain, or even stainless steel. Dentists refer to all of these restorations as "crowns". However, patients often refer to the tooth-colored ones as "caps" and the gold or stainless steel ones as "crowns". For general purposes, consider "caps" and "crowns" as synonyms.
Q: What's the difference between a "bridge" and a "partial denture"?
A: Both bridges and partial dentures replace missing teeth. A bridge is fixed by cementaion and is permanently attached to the anchor or abutment teeth. A bridge can also be attached to implants. A partial denture is attached by clasps to the abutment or anchor teeth and is easily removed by the patient. Patients are usually more satisfied with bridges than with partial dentures. In some cases however, a fixed bridge is not an option due to the postion or number of remaining teeth.
Q: What about "silver" fillings versus "white" fillings?
A: Although the U.S. Public Health Service issued a report in 1993 stating there is no health reason not to use amalgam (silver fillings), more patients today are requesting "white" or tooth-colored composite fillings. We also prefer tooth-colored fillings because they "bond" to the tooth structure and therefore help strengthen a tooth weakened by decay. White fillings are also usually less sensitive to temperature, and they also look better. However, "white" fillings cannot be used in every situation, and if a tooth is very badly broken-down, a crown will usually be necessary and provide better overall satisfaction for the patient.
Q: Do I need to have a root canal just because I have to have a crown?
A: No. While most teeth which have had root canal treatments do need crowns to strengthen the teeth and to return the teeth to normal form and function, not every tooth needing a crown also needs to have a root canal.
Q: What exactly is a root canal?
A: Due to certain conditions in the pulp tissue (nerve tissue) inside of a tooth, a root canal is a treatment that removes the pulp tissue and replaces it with a specialized filling. Consider a root canal as a filling that traverses the full length of a tooth, inside the tooth. Root canal procedures have improved considerably over the past few years and, although they have a negative conotation with many patients, are basically painless and routine.