Although often linked in the minds of our patients, dental crowns and bridges are completely different dental prostheses, but they do have some commonality. At Gonzalez Dental Care we use bridges to replace a missing tooth or a series of teeth. We use crowns to strengthen teeth that are compromised by a large amount of decay, cracks, or trauma. Crowns also serve as the anchors for bridges.
WHAT IS A CROWN?
You may have an uncle who refers to his crown as a “cap.” That was an older term for a crown, usually applying to highly visible crowns made with gold. It’s a good way to think of a crown, since a crown basically provides a cap over the top of a damaged tooth.
Today, most crowns are made of porcelain, and they cover the entire visible portion of the tooth down to the gumline. If a tooth has either an overly large filling or other serious damage, it may not survive if left as is. Without help, it’s likely going to need extraction. To give it the strength for chewing and biting we can place a porcelain crown over the damaged tooth. This prosthetic provides strength for chewing and daily use. Plus, it allows the patient to keep his or her natural tooth under the crown, which is always preferable to extraction and replacement. Crowns can also cover misshapen teeth or can fill gaps between teeth. When it comes to bridges, crowns are used as the anchors.
WHAT CAN YOU CORRECT WITH A CROWN?
At Gonzalez Dental Care we place crowns on teeth with an assortment of problems:
- Teeth with very large fillings
- Chipped teeth
- Heavily decayed teeth
- Severely worn teeth (maybe from bruxism)
- Severely discolored teeth
- Broken or fractured teeth
- Teeth that have had a root canal
- Teeth on both sides of a bridge
WHAT OUR PATIENTS HAVE TO SAY
"I love this place, the Dr and the staff are very nice, I’m really happy with my treatment! I got everything in this place (implant, crown, bridge, cleaning, clear aligner)" - A.M.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS OF PLACING A CROWN?
Having a tooth crowned takes two appointments. The first visit is used for preparing the tooth. Our dentists remove any decay or damaged areas, and then the tooth is cleaned. Next, 1-2 mm of the tooth’s enamel is removed on all sides and on the top. Why? This is necessary to make room for the crown that will overlay the tooth. Plus, it makes a uniform surface for bonding the crown onto your natural tooth. Once the tooth is shaved down, we take impressions and photos for the dental lab to use when creating your porcelain crown. This process usually takes one to two weeks, and we place a temporary crown onto your tooth for the interim period.
When your crown is delivered to our offices on Pines Boulevard, you return for your second appointment. Your dentist will check your new crown for its color match with your adjacent teeth. Then we will check the fit, making minor adjustments as needed. Once everyone is satisfied, we’ll permanently cement the crown onto your tooth, and you’re done.
HOW LONG WILL A CROWN LAST?
The lifespan of a crown can be influenced by your home hygiene. With a good home regimen, your crown should last up to 20 years.
WHAT IS A DENTAL BRIDGE?
As the name implies, a dental bridge spans the gap created by a missing tooth or teeth. Like a bridge you drive across on Alligator Alley, a dental bridge has three parts: two crowns (called the abutment teeth) on each side of the gap and the span in the middle. In this case the span is an artificial tooth or teeth (called the pontics). Bridges are made as a single piece and are permanently cemented onto the two abutment teeth.
This is a description of a traditional bridge, but “cantilever bridges” are used when there are healthy teeth for anchoring on only one side of the missing tooth or teeth. “Maryland bridges” are used on the front teeth.
HOW IS A BRIDGE PLACED?
Bridge placement, like crowns, requires two appointments. During your first appointment, your Gonzalez Dental Care dentist prepares the two abutment teeth for their crowns. That process is described above. Once the teeth are prepared, we take impressions for the lab to use to make your porcelain bridge.
When your new bridge is delivered to our offices, you come back in. First, we check the bridge to see how the crowns and artificial tooth or teeth match your natural teeth. Then we’ll test the fit. If you prefer, we can place the bridge with temporary cement, and you can test it out for a couple of days. Or, if you’re satisfied with the fit, we’ll permanently cement the crowns onto your teeth.
WHAT IS THE LIFESPAN OF A BRIDGE? DO THEY NEED SPECIAL CARE?
The life of a bridge is usually dependent upon the health of the abutment teeth. If they remain healthy, a bridge can last up to 15 years or longer. The endurance of a bridge can also depend on the wearer. If you refrain from chewing on ribs and other really hard foods with a bridge on the front teeth or chewing ice and the like with a bridge on the molars, this will increase their potential lifespan.
Bridges require general brushing and flossing with one addition. You’ll want to either floss or use an interproximal brush underneath your bridge. You simply slide the brush or floss under the bottom of the bridge where it sits atop the gums. The goal is to remove any food particles or plaque from under the bridge.
WOULD A BRIDGE BE RIGHT FOR ME? ARE THERE ALTERNATIVES?
If you’re missing a tooth or a couple teeth, a bridge is a good solution. Dental implants are the alternative to a bridge. Implants consist of a titanium anchor that is screwed down into the former socket that held the tooth root. The jawbone then grows around and accepts the titanium implant over the course of a few months. Once that process is complete, a post is attached to the implant, and an artificial tooth is attached to that. Implants are a possibility for replacing a single tooth or even a few teeth. If you are missing more than just a couple teeth, an alternative is a partial denture. These can be anchored by implants.