Both crowns and bridges are fixed prosthesis. Unlike removable appliances like dentures, which you can take out and clean daily. Crowns and bridges are cemented onto existing teeth or implants.
Crowns are used to protect badly decayed to fractured tooth, protect heavily filled tooth, protect a tooth after having root canal treatment or to correct minor problems in natural teeth like spacing and irregular shape or severe discolouration.
Bridges are used to replace one or more missing teeth. They span the space where the teeth are missing. Teeth on either side of the gap that anchor the bridge are called abutments and the replacement tooth is called the pontic
Before deciding on a crown or bridge a thorough clinical examination is conducted with x-rays by the dentist. The suitability of a crown or bridge is assessed and the dentist will advise on the material choice and explain treatment sequence and any other concerns you may have.
To have a crown or bridge the tooth (teeth) must be reduced in size (preparation appointment). Impressions are taken and sent to a dental laboratory where skilled technicians will fabricate the crown or bridge. In the meantime, a temporary crown or bridge is made and fitted onto the prepared tooth (teeth).
On the final appointment the temporary is removed and the tooth surfaces cleaned. The complete crown or bridge is tried in the mouth to assess fit, harmony with the bite, and appearance. Finally, the crown or bridge is cemented onto the prepared tooth (teeth) with dental cement.
Porcelain or ceramic crowns can be matched to colour of natural teeth. Other materials include gold and metal alloys. These alloys are generally stronger than porcelain and may be recommended for back teeth. A combination of metal and ceramic is also possible to maximise strength and simulate the appearance of natural teeth.
Crowns and bridges are made of inert materials that do not deteriorate over time. They can sometimes come loose or fall out. The most important step to ensure the longevity of crowns and bridges is to practice good oral hygiene. A bridge can lose its support if the teeth or bone holding it in place are damaged by dental disease. The underlying teeth is still prone to decay and gum disease. It is important to keep gums and teeth healthy by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice and flossing daily.
Visiting the dentist and hygienist regularly for dental examinations and professional cleaning is vital to prevent any problems with the crown or bridge especially around the junctions between tooth and crown or bridge (margins) which is the most vulnerable portion.