A crown is a type of dental restoration which completely caps or encircles a tooth or dental implant. Crowns are often needed when a large cavity threatens the ongoing health of a tooth. They are typically bonded to the tooth using a dental cement. Crowns can be made from many materials, which are usually fabricated using indirect methods. Crowns are often used to improve the strength or appearance of teeth. While inarguably beneficial to dental health, the procedure and materials can be relatively expensive.
The most common method of crowning teeth involves using an impression of a prepared tooth by a dentist to fabricate the crown outside of the mouth. The crown can then be inserted at a subsequent appointment. Using this indirect method of tooth restoration allows use of strong restorative materials requiring time consuming fabrication methods requiring intense heat, such as casting metal or firing porcelain which would not be possible to complete inside the mouth.
A bridge, also known as a fixed partial denture, is a dental restoration used to replace a missing tooth by joining permanently to adjacent teeth or dental implants.
Types of bridges may vary, depending upon how they are fabricated and the way they anchor to the adjacent teeth. Conventionally, bridges are made using the indirect method of restoration. However, bridges can be fabricated directly in the mouth using such materials as composite resin.
A bridge is fabricated by reducing the teeth on either side of the missing tooth or teeth by a preparation pattern determined by the location of the teeth and by the material from which the bridge is fabricated. In other words, the abutment teeth are reduced in size to accommodate the material to be used to restore the size and shape of the original teeth in a correct alignment and contact with the opposing teeth.
The materials used for the bridges include gold, porcelain fused to metal, or in the correct situation porcelain alone. The amount and type of reduction done to the abutment teeth varies slightly with the different materials used. The recipient of such a bridge must be careful to clean well under this prosthesis.
When restoring an edentulous space with a fixed partial denture that will crown the teeth adjacent to the space and bridge the gap with a pontic, or "dummy tooth", the restoration is referred to as a bridge. Besides all of the preceding information that concerns single-unit crowns, bridges possess a few additional considerations when it comes to case selection and treatment planning, tooth preparation and restoration fabrication.