Dental crowns and bridges are two types of fixed dental prosthetic devices used to replace missing teeth. Unlike dentures, which are removable and can be taken out to clean daily, crowns and bridges are cemented onto existing teeth, or onto implants.
A crown is also known as a “cap” because it completely covers a damaged tooth. It is used to:
Crowns can be made of porcelain or ceramic, which can both be matched to the color of the natural teeth, as well as gold and metal alloys and acrylic. Alloys are generally stronger than porcelain, but due to their appearance, they are more often recommended for treatment on the back teeth. Porcelain bonded to metal offers both strength and aesthetics.
To place a dental crown, the tooth (or teeth) must first be prepared by having a small portion of the enamel shaved off to allow room for the crown to fit properly. An impression will then be taken to provide an accurate mold for the crown, which will be made in a dental laboratory. A temporary crown is usually placed on the prepared tooth to protect it.
During a second appointment, after the completed crown has returned from the dental lab, the temporary crown will be removed, and the permanent crown will be cemented onto the prepared tooth.
Dental bridges are used when more than one tooth is missing in one area. It consists of the prosthetic (called the pontic) spanning the gap and the abutment teeth which it is anchored onto. The abutments are usually dental crowns fixed onto the teeth neighboring the gap. As with crowns, bridges can be made of different materials, such as porcelain or ceramic. Your dentist can help you choose the right material for you, depending on the location of the missing teeth, its function, aesthetic considerations, and cost.
To place a dental bridge, the abutment teeth must first be prepared to receive dental crowns following the procedure above. An impression will then be taken of the prepared teeth and gap. The completed bridge will be cemented onto the prepared teeth when it returns from the dental lab and adjustments can be made as necessary to achieve the right fit.
With proper care, crowns and bridges can last a lifetime, but they can be replaced if necessary.
Dr. Thaer Al Azzawi graduated from MSA University in 2010 and practiced dentistry overseas for several years before immigrating to the United States. He then graduated from Rutgers School of Dental Medicine with Awards for Excellence in 2015 with awards for excellence. His professional affiliations include the ADA, TDA and GHDS.