Bridges and crowns are fixed prosthetic devices that are cemented onto existing teeth or implants, by a dentist or prosthodontist (dental specialist). 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 discoloured 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 jaw joint disorders. Bridges are commonly used if you are missing one or more teeth. They fill the space where the teeth are missing and are cemented to the neighbouring natural teeth or implants.
In addition to strengthening a damaged tooth, crowns can be used to improve a tooth’s appearance, shape and alignment. By filling the space left from missing teeth, bridges can stabilise the teeth and restore the bite.
Very well maintained crowns and bridges can for many years. However, they do sometimes come loose, break or fall out. The most important step you can take to ensure the longevity of your crown or bridge is to practise very good oral hygiene. Keep your gums and teeth healthy by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily. See your dental practitioner regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings.
To prevent damage to your new crown or bridge, avoid chewing hard foods, ice or other hard objects.
A crown is also placed on top of an implant to provide replacement tooth 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. 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 placed in a space where a single tooth or teeth are missing and is attached onto a neighbouring tooth / teeth or implants. 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 a bridge. 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.