What are dental crowns and bridges?

Published:July 25th, 2012

Dental crowns and bridges are a common treatment and are generally used to conserve teeth or to replace teeth which are missing. However the effect can also be cosmetic and well-made dental crowns and bridges can transform a smile. They can be made out of several different materials, and the choice can depend on the location of tooth and the cost of the restoration.


Dental crowns

Dental crowns are used to replace a single missing tooth, and are very useful where much of the tooth structure has been lost to decay or trauma, or for restoring the tooth after root canal therapy. The crown literally covers the whole of the remaining tooth structure, protecting it from any further damage. Crowns can either be made out of metal, metal covered in ceramic, all-ceramic materials or composite resin.


Dental bridges

Dental bridges are used to replace one or more missing tooth. Nowadays they can be used to replace a whole arch of missing teeth provided there is sufficient support. Dental bridges can look very natural when well-constructed. One of the major disadvantages of having a bridge fitted is that the dentist will need to remove healthy tooth structure from the teeth adjacent to the gap.

This is to create sufficient room for the bridge to be fitted over the teeth, but does mean that healthy tooth structure can never be replaced. However having a bridge fitted is often the best choice for patients, and is one of the most affordable options.

Alternatives include having a partial denture or having an implant. Dental bridges can be made using the same materials as crowns.


Metal alloy crowns and bridges

Metal alloy crowns can either be silver or gold coloured, depending on the alloy. They are extremely hard wearing and are suitable for back teeth which often come under substantial pressure due to chewing. Depending on the degree of gold contained in the alloy, a metal alloy crowns can be a very affordable option.


Porcelain fused to metal crowns and bridges

Porcelain fused to metal crowns have a metal substructure which is covered over in porcelain to create an aesthetically pleasing appearance. They are quite hard wearing and are suitable for both front and back teeth. The shade of the porcelain can be accurately matched to existing teeth so the crowns blend in, giving a natural appearance.


All-ceramic crowns and bridges

All-ceramic crowns are becoming far more widely used for both back and front teeth. Although a more expensive alternative, an all-ceramic crown can create an incredibly natural appearance due to the high translucency of the materials used.

These materials replicate the translucency found in natural teeth as they allow the light to pass through the crown. All-ceramic crowns can either be made out of a pressable ceramic or a material called zirconia. The zirconia is slightly stronger, but both should last pretty well.


Composite resin crowns and bridges

Composite resin crowns are generally used as temporary crowns as they’re not really strong enough to last in the longer term. Modern composite materials are pretty good at creating a natural appearance, but composite is quite prone towards becoming stained whereas ceramic cannot stain.


Have your teeth whitened before your crowns and bridges are made

If you know you need new crowns or maybe a bridge, but are also planning to have your teeth whitened then make sure you have your teeth bleached beforehand. This is to ensure the porcelain can be exactly matched to your newly whitened teeth as porcelain cannot be bleached. It can prove very expensive to try to do it the other way round as you may need to renew any porcelain work in your mouth.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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