What’s the Difference Between a Crown and a Bridge?

What’s the Difference Between a Crown and a Bridge?

In a perfect world, we’d all have stunningly beautiful, bright smiles for a lifetime. No cavities. No missing teeth. No imperfections. But despite our best efforts with at-home oral care like brushing and flossing, as well as regular checkups and hygiene cleanings, we may need a filling or even an extraction or root canal.

In fact, about 178 million people in the United States are missing at least one tooth and an estimated 40 million Americans are missing all of their teeth. The good news is that today’s cosmetic dentistry provides seemingly endless options that not only restore teeth but also enhance their esthetic appearance.

In this blog, our own Dr. Emmanuel Aguilar at American Dental Clinic unpacks two common restorative cosmetic dentistry procedures called dental crowns and bridges. Crowns and bridges can be used together or separately. So what’s the difference between the two? Let’s start with a clear definition of each procedure.

Dental crowns and bridges defined

A crown sometimes called a “cap”, is typically used to address a weakened or damaged tooth. Perhaps you have a particularly deep cavity or a crack that threatens the integrity of the tooth. The crown is placed on top of the damaged tooth to shore it up. Crowns can also be used to address missing teeth. In this case, the crown caps a dental implant.

Adversely, as its name suggests bridges are used to bridge or replace the space between missing teeth. As previously mentioned this is where bridges and crowns are commonly used together. In the case of bridges, the missing tooth or teeth are often replaced by crowns on either side of the gap and are anchored by the neighboring healthy existing teeth or a dental implant.

Both crowns and bridges can be made from a variety of materials like gold, metal, alloys, or porcelain, but for most patients, the hands-down preference in the material choice is all about esthetics. For that reason, many patients prefer crowns and bridges made primarily from porcelain since they mimic the look and feel like your natural teeth.  

Crowns performed in two to three visits

In addition to why they’re used, another difference between crowns and bridges lies in how the procedures are performed. Although the process may vary a little depending on whether your dentist has the capability to mill the crown in-office or not, the process of installing a crown takes up to two visits.

During the first visit, your dentist focuses on tooth prep and creating an impression or mold, which will be used to make your crown. Your dentist will shave or file down the enamel a bit on the affected tooth so that the crown will fit properly. Next, your dentist takes an impression of the tooth and the neighboring teeth.

If the practice has the capability to mill the crown onsite, then it can be milled and placed on the same day. Otherwise, the impression gets sent off to a laboratory to be milled. The dentist fits the patient with a temporary crown and the patient returns in two to three weeks when the permanent crown comes back from the lab. In this final visit, the temporary crown is removed and replaced by the permanent one. Your dentist will finish the process by doing some minor adjustments, if needed, to ensure fit and a proper bite. 

Bridges involve crowns and pontics

Bridges are essentially partial dentures since they replace missing teeth. Although the process of getting a bridge is a multiple-visit process similar to getting a crown, it’s a little more involved. First, the teeth at both sides of the gap also called abutment teeth, need to be prepared as anchor points. Next, an impression is created and sent to a laboratory, which creates the bridge. Your complete component will include your bridge, artificial teeth or pontics, and crowns.

Your dentist installs a temporary bridge until the permanent one comes back from the lab. Once the permanent bridge comes back from the lab, your dentist will remove the temporary one and place the permanent one. It may need to be adjusted a bit and you may need some time to get used to it. However, the unsightly gap caused by the missing teeth will be restored.

Crowns and bridges are great restorative tools to reimagine your smile. To learn more, book a consultation at American Dental Clinic in San Diego. Make your appointment by using our online booking tool or calling us today at 858-216-4662.

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