Crowns vs. Bridges: What’s the Difference?

Dental Crowns Bridges

Tooth loss from injury, gum disease, or decay is incredibly common. As many as 69 percent of Americans will experience at least one missing or damaged tooth by the time they reach their forties.

If you think missing or damaged teeth only affect your smile, think again: damaged teeth are much more than a cosmetic issue. A broken or missing tooth can make biting and chewing difficult and leave your mouth susceptible to shifting, cracking, disease, or decay.

Crowns and bridges are permanent dental implants that look – and function – just like your natural teeth. But what’s the difference between a crown and a bridge? In the sections below, we’ll give you an overview of crowns and bridges to help you determine which dental implant is right for you.

What is a crown?

A crown acts as a protective cap over a damaged, discolored, or decayed tooth. The inside of the crown is hollow, allowing it to envelop and protect the remaining portion of your natural tooth from any further damage or decay. Depending on your preference, crowns can be made from porcelain, ceramic, acrylic, or metal alloy.

Your dentist will take an impression of your existing tooth to ensure that the crown is customized to fit the exact shape of your mouth. You’ll then have a temporary crown placed over your tooth while the permanent crown is being made. Once it’s ready, the custom-fitted crown is fixed permanently to the natural tooth with a bonding agent.

Crowns can also be attached to a permanent dental implant to take the place of a missing tooth. A dental implant is a metal fixture that acts as a tooth root replacement, and is anchored to your jawbone. Once the implant is in place, a permanent crown is set in place by screwing into the implant. Screwed-in crowns do require a longer healing time (typically anywhere between six to 12 weeks), but they are typically easier to remove, repair, or replace in comparison to a bonded crown.

What is a bridge?

While crowns can be used for either damaged or missing teeth, bridges are designed to replace one or more teeth. A dental bridge is essentially multiple replacement teeth (called pontics) that are attached as one unit. Each end to the bridge can be anchored in different ways, depending on the type of bridge that is right for you. These include:

  • Traditional bridge: This is the most common type of bridge, with each end fused to either a natural tooth or a dental implant.
  • Cantilever bridge: Similar to the traditional bridge, but fused only to one tooth or implant (rather than attaching both ends). A cantilever bridge is not recommended for the back of the mouth, as it can exert too much pressure on remaining teeth and cause damage due to shifting.
  • Maryland bonded bridge: These types of bridges are typically fused to natural teeth on one side. Sometimes called resin bridges, they can be made out of porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, or plastic with a porcelain framework.

Similar to a crown, your dentist will take an impression of your teeth to ensure that your bridge is custom-fitted to your mouth. They may also reduce the size of your teeth to support a more secure fit. You will need to have a temporary bridge in place until your custom bridge is ready to be permanently cemented in place.

Choosing between a crown or a bridge is best determined by scheduling an appointment with your dentist. If you have a damaged or missing tooth, don’t wait to get it fixed – call Valley Dental Care today! We’ll be happy to examine your mouth and recommend the dental implant that is best suited for your unique needs.