Dental crowns and bridges allow dentists to protect and restore damaged teeth. Typically, when tooth decay is severe enough that it can’t be treated with a filling, a dental crown will be used to cover, or cap, the tooth. Crowns are also commonly used to seal teeth that have been treated with root canal therapy. Additionally, dental crowns are often used for cosmetic purposes or in smile makeovers. A dental bridge is a type of dental work that replaces a tooth or consecutive missing teeth. Two dental crowns are placed on the healthy teeth living on either side of the gap left by your lost tooth. A false tooth, or pontic, is attached to the crowns and literally bridges the gap, replacing your missing tooth.
Dental crowns are also referred to as “caps” because they cap the existing tooth structure in order to restore it.
Your dentist will clean and numb your mouth, and then begin to trim away a thin layer of enamel from the tooth or teeth to receive crowns. In the case of a bridge, these are known as “abutment teeth” and they will hold your crowns on either side of the missing tooth.
Once your teeth have been prepared, your dentist will use dental putty and trays to take impressions of your mouth. These impressions will be used by a technician at a dental lab to custom build your dental crown or bridge.
At the end of the preparation appointment, your dentist will place a temporary crown or bridge to protect your prepared teeth until your permanent bridge can be placed.
Once your permanent crown or bridge is ready, you’ll come into the office to have it seated permanently. It is first checked for proper fit, and minor adjustments may be made by your dentist, if necessary, to ensure that your restoration looks and feels natural.
Once you and your dentist have determined that the fit of your crown or bridge feels right, they will use a strong dental cement to attach it permanently to your tooth or teeth, restoring your smile and your bite.
Lab-made crowns are manufactured by experienced technicians at dental labs that specialize in building dental prostheses. Your dentist will take impressions, scans, and photos of your teeth, which will be sent directly to the lab.
Using an advanced manufacturing process, your crowns will be built out of durable ceramic and metal materials, and sent back to your dentist for the final fitting and placement. Lab-made crowns look and feel very natural, and are usually the most long-lasting and durable type of crown.
Traditional dental bridges are made out of two crowns, which are attached permanently to “abutment teeth.” These are the healthy teeth located next to one or more missing teeth within your mouth. A false tooth, called a pontic, connects the abutment teeth together and literally “bridge” the gap between your teeth, restoring your smile.
Unlike a traditional fixed bridge, which supports your bridge using two abutment teeth, a cantilever bridge uses only a single tooth to support your bridge. In this type of bridge, a single tooth is trimmed next to your missing tooth. Then, a bridge is made that consists of a single crown and an artificial tooth. The crown is attached to your abutment tooth, and then the artificial tooth is suspended in the gap where your missing tooth used to be, restoring your smile.
Cantilever bridges are less invasive than traditional bridges, since only one tooth has to be trimmed, and they are usually less expensive than traditional bridges. However, they typically can only be used in specific areas of the mouth.
A Maryland bridge requires minimal removal of enamel or preparation of the adjacent teeth. In this treatment, a false tooth is built using a framework with “wings” that attach to the adjacent teeth. These “wings” are attached to the backs of your teeth using dental cement, holding the false tooth in place and restoring your smile. Maryland bridges are more commonly used to replace a missing front tooth, and cannot be used in every circumstance.
Dental bridges can be used to replace up to 3 consecutive missing teeth.
Both dental crowns and bridges protect and restore damaged teeth to their normal shape, size, and function. A crown restores one decaying tooth by covering it with a cap, while a dental bridge restores multiple teeth through a fixed appendage that mimics the look and feel of your other teeth.
While every type of bridge is different, dental bridges all share similar characteristics and work in the same way. A bridge is used to attach one or more false teeth to your existing teeth – locking them into place by using dental crowns (fixed and cantilever bridges) or “wings” that attach to the backs of your teeth (Maryland bridges).
Because they won’t move or shift, they’re a great alternative to partial dentures. And since they do not require invasive surgery, some patients prefer dental bridges as an alternative to dental implants.
Most commonly, dental crowns and bridges are used to protect and restore teeth that have been damaged by a serious cavity, or that have been cracked or broken by dental trauma, like an accident or injury. Because crowns and bridges cover up and protect your entire tooth structure, they are ideal for preventing further complications and restoring the shape, appearance, and function of damaged teeth.
Dental crowns and bridges are also used to cover up and protect teeth after root canal treatment. They may also be used for cosmetic dentistry if other treatments like veneers and dental bonding are not appropriate.
If you have one or more damaged or severely decayed teeth, you may need a dental crown or bridge. You should see your dentist if you are experiencing tooth pain and discomfort, or if your teeth are visibly damaged or discolored. Depending on the cause of your dental issues, they may recommend a dental crown, dental bridge, or another restorative treatment.
A well-made and properly placed dental crown and bridge will typically last up to 15 years. It’s critical to maintain good oral health habits to enhance your crown’s longevity. These practices include brushing twice per day, flossing once per day, and seeing your dentist every 6 months for a professional cleaning and exam. Same-day crowns can be a little less durable, but they can still last several years with proper care.
You can treat your dental crown and bridge just like a natural tooth. Make sure you brush twice a day for at least two minutes, ensuring you scrub the full surface of every tooth. You should floss at least once per day, preferably at night. This should only take a few minutes, but be sure to floss against the tooth and below the gum line. You should also see your dentist every six months for a check-up to make sure that your dental work and teeth are healthy.
Dental crowns and bridges that are required for restorative purposes, such as severe cavities or a broken tooth, are typically covered by insurance. The exact amount of coverage you receive will depend on the deductible and yearly limits of your policy.
If you require a crown or bridge for cosmetic purposes, such as covering up a discolored tooth, the procedure may not be covered by insurance. To make sure your procedure is covered, we recommend consulting with your insurer.
Yes. Dental bridges, just like all dental prostheses, can become damaged over time, or simply worn down from daily use when chewing, biting, smiling, and speaking. Typically, bridges last between 10-20 years, but the expected lifespan of your bridge may be different depending on the type of bridge, how well you care for your teeth, and a few other factors.
This varies, depending on the type of dental crown or bridge you choose. However, most dental crowns and bridges are made from a ceramic or porcelain material. Sometimes, a metal framework can be used under the porcelain, or all-gold can be chosen by the patient if desired.
The cost of dental crowns and bridges is different for each patient. Factors that may affect the cost of your crown or bridge include your overall oral health, the type of crown or bridge you choose, pre-treatment surgeries (like tooth extraction) and more. The best way to find out how much you’ll pay for a dental bridge is to schedule a consultation with your dentist.
However, dental bridges are usually covered, at least in part, by dental insurance when they’re used to restore missing teeth. Contact your insurance provider to learn more about your coverage.