What are dental crowns and bridges?
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. And occasionally, dental crowns are used for cosmetic purposes or in smile makeovers.
A dental bridge is a type of dental work that replaces a tooth or a few 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.
Did you know…
Dental crowns are also referred to as “caps” because they cap the existing tooth structure in order to restore it.
How dental crowns and bridges work together
Preparation of Abutment Teeth
Your dentist will clean and numb your mouth, and then begin to trim away a thin layer of enamel from the two teeth next to your missing tooth. These are known as “abutment teeth” and they will hold your crowns. Your bridge will permanently attach to these crowns.
Once your abutment teeth have been prepared, your dentist will take digital scans of your teeth. These images will be used by a technician at a dental lab to build your dental bridge.
Depending on your needs, your dentist will place a temporary resin bridge to protect your prepared abutment teeth, or two temporary dental crowns. Either way, your prepared teeth will be covered and protected until your permanent bridge can be placed.
Bridge Check & Adjustment
Once your permanent bridge is ready, usually within a few weeks, you’ll come into the office to have the bridge checked for proper fit. Minor adjustments may be made by your dentist, if necessary, to ensure that your bridge looks and feels natural. If the bridge requires larger adjustments, it will be sent back to the lab for further refinement.
Once you and your dentist have determined that the fit of your bridge feels right, they will use powerful dental cement to attach it permanently to your abutment teeth, restoring your smile and your bite.
Types of dental crowns and bridges
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. Between these teeth, a metal framework is used to suspend one or more “pontics” (false teeth). These false teeth literally “bridge” the gap between your missing 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, you must have a healthy mouth to get a cantilever bridge, and they typically can only be used in a few areas of the mouth.
Maryland Bonded Bridges
A Maryland bridge does not require any removal of enamel or preparation of the adjacent teeth. In this treatment, a false tooth is built using a metal 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 commonly used in the front teeth, and are ideal if you would like to restore your smile without any invasive dental treatment.
Did you know…
Dental bridges can be used to replace up to 3 consecutive missing teeth.
Have questions about crowns and bridges? Find answers here.
How are crowns and bridges related?
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.
How to do crowns and bridges work?
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 metal “wings” that attach to the rear 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.
What issues can a dental crown and bridge treat?
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. In more rare cases, they may also be used for cosmetic dentistry if other treatments like veneers and dental bonding are not appropriate.
How do I know if I need a dental crown or bridge?
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.
How long do dental crowns and bridges last?
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.
How do I care for my dental crown and bridge?
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.
Are dental crowns and bridges covered by insurance?
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.
Can dental crowns and bridges be repaired or replaced?
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.
What are dental crowns and bridges made of?
This varies, depending on the type of dental crown or bridge you choose. However, most dental crowns and bridges are made from a combination of a metal framework, which supports the teeth and ensures they’re in the proper place, and one or more porcelain crowns and false teeth. Acrylic teeth are sometimes used for dental bridges and crowns, but usually, they are only used for temporary bridges and crowns, since acrylic is much less durable than porcelain and ceramic materials.
How much do dental crowns and bridges cost?
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.
Did you know…
When properly placed and with good oral hygiene habits, dental crowns can last up to 15 years.