Sometimes a tooth becomes so severely damaged due to decay, cracked teeth or trauma that the area is too large to restore with a traditional filling. Such cases may call for a dental crown. One option to replacing missing teeth when teeth exist on either side of the space is a bridge.
Both crowns and bridges fit completely over the affected teeth. To prepare for a crown or bridge, the tooth is prepared by being trimmed down (reduced) to accommodate the crown or bridge. The crown or bridge restores the size, shape and look of your tooth, and more importantly restores function. Learn more about crowns and bridges below.
A dental crown, sometimes called a cap, completely covers your damaged tooth. It is cemented into place and offers a strong, solid, good-looking replacement for a natural tooth. A crown is created in a lab and is made from models your dentist makes with impressions, so it fits your mouth perfectly; replicating the shape, size and position of your severely damaged tooth.
Reasons your dentist would recommend a dental crown:
- To replace a large filling that no longer has enough tooth structure to continue to fill the cavity
- To protect a weak tooth from further chipping, breaking or fracturing
- To restore a fractured/cracked tooth
- To cover a poorly shaped tooth or discolored tooth
- To attach a dental bridge (see more below)
- To protect and restore a tooth that has had a root canal
- To cover a dental implant
No matter the reason you need a crown, it is well worth it. Your tooth will be stronger and more stable, it will last longer, it will look better, and you’ll feel better. Just as with tooth cavity filling materials, many types of dental crown materials exist. Your Dental Associates providers will discuss the options when planning your treatment.
Type of dental crowns:
Temporary crowns: these crowns are acrylic or metal alloy and are made right in the dentist’s office. They cover the tooth while a permanent crown is being created in our in-house dental lab.
Stainless steel crowns: these are prefabricated crowns that are used on permanent and baby teeth. Stainless steel crowns are generally used for children's teeth because they are cost-effective and can be put on in one visit.
Metal crowns: these crowns can be made from cast gold alloys or cast silver palladium alloys. With a metal crown, less tooth structure needs to be removed and the wear on opposing teeth is minimal. Metal crowns withstand biting and chewing well and last the longest. They also rarely chip or break.
Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns: these dental crowns contain an inner metal casting with porcelain baked over it. They look natural and can be very aesthetic. Occasionally they may chip and show the underlying metal. Most porcelain crowns are slightly more abrasive and may wear the natural enamel of the opposing teeth.
All ceramic or all porcelain crowns: these dental crowns are very common and provide optimum aesthetic results. Like all porcelains, they are slightly more abrasive and can wear the opposing teeth.
Missing a tooth and having a gap in between your teeth isn’t just unsightly, it can cause other problems. Talking and chewing may be difficult. Teeth adjacent to the space will eventually begin to shift into the empty space which will affect your bite, may lead to gum disease and possibly even jaw joint disorders like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues.
One way to take care of a gap caused by a missing tooth is with a dental bridge. There are removable dental bridges, also called partial dentures, that can be removed and cleaned like dentures, and there are permanent dental bridges, sometimes called fixed partial dentures.
A dental bridge is called a bridge because it literally bridges the gap where one or more teeth used to be. Bridges are cemented to the teeth adjacent to the empty space. The adjacent teeth, called abutments, serve as the anchors for the bridge. The adjacent teeth are trimmed down and capped with a crown, and then a replacement tooth, called a pontic, is attached to those crowns to form the bridge. The unit is securely cemented to your teeth and your smile and ability to chew food is improved.
Dental bridges help you:
- Restore the ability to chew and speak properly
- Maintain the shape of your face, preventing lip or face collapse
- Distribute the forces in your bite to alleviate stress on other teeth
- Prevent remaining teeth from shifting out of position and into the gap
There are several types of dental bridges. Each bridge is made with different materials and is better suited for certain areas of the mouth and for certain types of situations. Your Dental Associates dentist will recommend the best type of dental bridge based on your individual circumstance.
Type of dental bridges:
Traditional bridges: these are the most common dental bridges. They involve creating a crown for the tooth (abutment) on either side of the missing tooth, with a replacement tooth (pontic) in between. Traditional bridges are made of either porcelain fused to metal or ceramic.
Cantilever bridges: these bridges are used when the replacement tooth can only be supported from one side. A cantilever dental bridge is typically used when the space is small and the stresses will be minimal. Your Dental Associates dentist will discuss the indications for this type of dental bridge.
Maryland bonded bridges: this dental bridge is most commonly used to bridge front teeth together. The Maryland bridge technique, named after the University of Maryland Dental School where it was developed, uses metal or resin “wings” on each side of the bridge that are bonded to the existing teeth. A Maryland bonded bridge is also called a resin-bonded bridge. One of its big advantages is that it requires very little shaping, if any, of the anchor teeth.
Implant-supported dental bridges: these bridges are recommended if you’re missing more than one tooth. This technique involves the placement of two or more dental implants with space between them. These implants serve as the abutments (anchors) for the permanently cemented bridgework. Because dental implants simulate tooth roots, they maintain the integrity of the jaw bone and provide a solid support for the bridge.
As with crowns, bridges are made of several different types of materials. Gold, alloy, porcelain or a combination of all of them. Material selection is based on your existing dentition, the area of the mouth to be restored and the type of bridge to be used. Your Dental Associates dentist will recommend the best bridge to keep your mouth at its healthiest and you at your happiest. With proper care and dental hygiene, your bridge will keep you smiling for up to 20 years.
Request a Consultation
If you have a severely damaged tooth and/or missing teeth and think you could benefit from a crown or bridge, visit our Locations page to find our dental clinic near you. Call the clinic of your choice and tell them you’re interested in a consultation with a dentist.
Questions and Crown and Bridges? See our Dental Crowns and Dental Bridges FAQs.
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