What is a crown?
A crown is basically a manufactured tooth. It’s generally made of porcelain or ceramic that can be colour and texture-matched to your existing teeth. A crown can also be made of gold alloys for improved strength when replacing a back tooth. Often a metal crown will have porcelain bonded to the exterior to give it strength and a natural look.
What types of crowns are available?
Permanent crowns can be made from stainless steel, all metal (such as gold or another alloy), porcelain-fused-to-metal, all resin, or all ceramic.
Stainless steel crowns are prefabricated crowns that are used on permanent teeth primarily as a temporary measure. The crown protects the tooth or filling while a permanent crown is made from another material. For children, a stainless steel crown is commonly used to fit over a primary tooth that's been prepared to fit it. The crown covers the entire tooth and protects it from further decay. When the primary tooth comes out to make room for the permanent tooth, the crown comes out naturally with it.
Metals used in crowns include alloys that have a high content of gold or platinum, or base-metal alloys . Metal crowns withstand biting and chewing forces well and probably last the longest in terms of wear down. Also, metal crowns rarely chip or break. The metallic color -- and the high price of gold -- is the main drawback. Metal crowns are a good choice for out-of-sight molars.
Porcelain-fused-to-metal dental crowns can be colour matched to your adjacent teeth (unlike the metallic crowns). However, more wearing to the opposing teeth occurs with this crown type compared with metal or resin crowns. The crown's porcelain portion can also chip or break off. Next to all-ceramic crowns, porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns look most like normal teeth. However, sometimes the metal underlying the crown's porcelain can show through as a dark line, especially at the gum line and even more so if your gums recede. These crowns can be a good choice for front or back teeth as well as long bridges where the metal is needed for strength.
All-resin dental crowns are less expensive than other crown types. However, they wear down over time and are more prone to fractures than porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns.
All-ceramic or all-porcelain dental crowns provide better natural colour match than any other crown type and may be more suitable for people with metal allergies. All-ceramic crowns can be used for front and back teeth.
How is crown fitted?
Crowns are used when an existing tooth is damaged, fractured or weakened. The tooth is filed down and reshaped into a smaller size. Any decay is removed and the tooth structure is restored to support the crown. The crown fits like a cap over the newly shaped tooth and is cemented into position.
What is a bridge?
A bridge is a prosthetic appliance that replaces missing teeth. Bridges are usually made of porcelain fused to metal in order to achieve both strength and a natural look.
How is a bridge fitted?
A bridge consists of false teeth rigidly attached between two crowns. The teeth on either side of the gap are prepared for these crowns and the bridge is cemented into place. In some cases, it’s possible to use implants to replace the missing teeth rather than using the existing teeth. Once a bridge is cemented into position, it looks and works just like natural teeth.
When is a crown or bridge recommended?
Crowns and bridges are used to repair a number of different dental problems.
A crown can be recommended for:
Damaged or fractured teeth
Heavily restored teeth
Cracked tooth syndrome
When a dental bridge needs an anchor
A bridge is used to replace a missing tooth or teeth. It is also a possible solution when dentures are unstable, uncomfortable or aesthetically displeasing.
To find out if you’re a suitable candidate for a crown or bridge, it’s essential that you are assessed by a dentist. Once you explain to your dentist the result you would like to achieve, they will be able to tell you exactly what is, and is not, possible in your situation.
Crown and bridge care
Once your crown or bridge is fitted, it’s important to maintain a regular and effective routine of oral hygiene. Brush and floss two to three times a day, taking extra care to floss around your crown. This will help avoid decay where the crown and the tooth join. Avoid sticky foods such as toffee and lollies, and do not use your teeth inappropriately – chewing pens, crunching ice, gnawing fingernails, etc.
A dental floss threader, which looks like a small bendy brush, can be used to clean under your bridge.
Whether you have a crown or a bridge, the most important thing is to regularly visit your dentist for a check-up and clean. This way problems can be detected early, allowing them to be corrected before they become painful and expensive.
How long will a bridge or crown last?
How long your crown and bridge lasts depends on the effectiveness and regularity of your dental hygiene routine. As a general rule, they last between 7-15 years but longer periods are certainly possible with outstanding oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups.
Risks and complications
Detachment of dental crowns or dental bridges
Pain, sensitivity, discomfort