Dental crowns and bridges are small-scale dental prostheses, commonly used to repair severe but localized damage.
Both crowns and bridges can restore the appearance and function of teeth, can be cared for like natural teeth, and may form a small part of a larger dental reconstruction.
In order to understand your treatment options, it’s important to understand both terms and how they differ from each other.
What is a dental crown?
The term “dental crown” has two main meanings:
- A protective, artificial cap placed over a natural tooth core.
- An artificial tooth, attached to a dental implant or larger dental prosthesis, designed to completely replace a natural tooth.
If you’ve been told you need a dental crown to fix a decayed tooth, that’s most likely a reference to the first type of crown.
What this means is that the decay in your tooth has progressed beyond the point where it can be stopped with a simple filling, but not to the point where the whole tooth needs to be removed. Cleaning away the decay and replacing the exterior of the tooth with a crown can prevent further damage and allow you to use the affected tooth comfortably again.
Getting a dental crown at the right moment is typically more affordable and less invasive than the options for dealing with an unsalvageable tooth later.
What is a dental bridge?
A bridge is a dental prosthesis that literally bridges a gap left by one or more missing teeth.
Bridges come in many forms, to fit different patient needs. Some replace a single tooth, some a row of several teeth. Some are held in place by implants, others by a pair of crowns cemented over the natural teeth on either side of the gap.
If you have one unsalvageable or missing tooth, surrounded by moderately decayed teeth that would benefit from crowns, getting a crown-supported bridge may be the intuitive solution.
Even if the teeth surrounding the gap are perfectly healthy, it may still be worth adding crowns to support a bridge, particularly if you need to avoid dental implants for medical, financial, or other reasons.
What to expect when getting a dental crown or bridge?
When you get a dental crown, either to preserve an individual tooth or to support a bridge, the doctor will:
- Numb the area with a local anesthetic.
- Drill to remove the exterior of the tooth and clean up any decay.
- Provide you with a temporary crown or bridge to wear while your permanent crown or bridge is being made.
- In a separate appointment, attach the permanent crown or bridge, tailored to match your natural teeth.
Depending on your individual case, the doctor may also need to perform:
- A root canal on the tooth receiving a crown.
- Extraction of any unsalvageable teeth to be replaced.
Bridges that will be supported by implants do not require a crown procedure, but do require an implant procedure, which you can learn more about here.
If you’re uncertain whether a crown or a bridge is right for you, our staff are always happy to discuss your case and walk you through your options.