Bridges and crowns are fixed prosthetic devices that are cemented onto existing teeth or implants, by a dentist or prosthodontist. Crowns are used most commonly to entirely cover or "cap" a damaged tooth or cover an implant. Your dentist may recommend a crown to:
- Replace a large filling when there isn't enough tooth remaining
- Protect a weak tooth from fracturing
- Restore a fractured tooth
- Attach a bridge
- Cover a dental implant
- Cover a discolored or poorly shaped tooth
- Cover a tooth that has had root canal treatment
Gaps left by missing teeth eventually cause the remaining teeth to shift resulting in a bad bite. This can also lead to gum disease and TMJ disorders. Bridges are commonly used if you’re missing one or more teeth. They cover the space where the teeth are missing and are cemented to natural teeth or implants surrounding the space.
While crowns and bridges can last a lifetime, they do sometimes come loose or fall out. The most important step you can take to ensure the longevity of your crown is to practice good oral hygiene. Keep your gums and teeth healthy by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily. See your dentist or hygienist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings.
To prevent damage to your new crown or bridge, avoid chewing hard foods, ice or other hard objects.
A crown can also be placed on top of an implant to provide a tooth-like shape and structure for normal oral function. Porcelain or ceramic crowns can be matched to the color of your natural teeth. Other materials include gold and metal alloys, acrylic and ceramic. These alloys are generally stronger than porcelain and may be recommended for back teeth. Porcelain fused to metal is often used because it is both a strong material and attractive in its appearance.
A bridge is mounted onto a space where teeth are missing and is attached onto a tooth or implant. These teeth, called abutments, serve as anchors for the bridge. A replacement tooth, called a pontic, is attached to the crowns that cover the abutment. As with crowns, you have a choice of materials for bridges. Your dentist can help you decide which is best for you, based on the location of the missing tooth (or teeth), its function, aesthetic considerations and cost.