Blog Post

Crowns vs. Bridges: What’s the Difference, and Which Option Is Best for You?

Even in modern society, tooth loss is a major problem. By the time the average American reaches 50, they’ve lost an average of 12 teeth, damaging their oral and overall health. Fortunately, though, dental technology has advanced to the point that dentists can partially or fully restore missing or damaged teeth. Two of the most common procedures are dental bridges and dental crowns. Which option is best for you depends on your individual needs.

At Back of the Wasatch Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Reed Lobrot and our staff are experts at placing both dental crowns and bridges. In fact, the doctor views these replacement options as art forms that allow him to combine his technical skills with an aesthetic sense that gives you a healthy, natural smile. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between crowns and bridges and how each can restore your oral health.

The problems with tooth loss

Losing teeth does more than just leave a gap in your smile. Research indicates that your oral health risks increase with each additional missing tooth. Some problems that arise include:

  • Jawbone shrinks from lack of bite stimulation
  • Gums recede, leading to gum disease
  • Teeth next to the gap weaken
  • Plaque builds up inside the gap, leading to tooth decay on either side
  • Adjacent teeth shift into the gap, causing bite misalignments and crowding

Replacing missing teeth can prevent these and other problems from developing.

What are crowns?

A dental crown, also known as a “cap,” is a porcelain, ceramic, or metal structure that replaces the part of the tooth that sits above the gum line. It’s placed on top of a damaged tooth to hold it together; a tooth that’s had a root canal, a procedure that removes the natural crown; or on top of an abutment following a dental implant.

The crown strengthens a damaged or weakened tooth and improves its appearance, alignment, and shape. When attached to an implant abutment, it provides the necessary bite pressure to stimulate jawbone growth. In addition, crowns serve as anchors for dental bridges.

Crowns also:

  • Cover large fillings to support the structure
  • Protect a weakened tooth from cracking
  • Restore a tooth that’s already cracked
  • Cover a discolored and/or poorly shaped tooth

Crowns can be made from many different materials. Metal alloys are generally stronger than porcelain, but their color makes them suitable only for back teeth. 

Porcelain can be shaded to match surrounding teeth, but it can chip or wear down easily. 

Porcelain bonded to a metal shell is stronger and can be used for front teeth that need bite pressure; however, there’s a chance that the metal may show through as a dark line. 

Resin is the cheapest alternative, but it wears down easily. 

Pressed ceramic has a hard inner core that makes it long-lasting. It can also be topped with porcelain to make it easier to match your natural tooth color.

What are bridges?

Dental bridges close (bridge) the gap between one or more missing teeth. Unlike a crown, the artificial tooth (pontic) sits in the gap between the teeth instead of on top of a tooth root. The pontic is held in place by abutment teeth — teeth on either side of the gap — to which they’re cemented. The abutment teeth can be natural, or they can be dental crowns. Most bridges are made from porcelain to blend in with your natural teeth. Bridges come in four types:

1. Traditional bridge

This is the most common type of dental bridge, and it uses one or more pontics cemented to the abutment teeth.

2. Cantilever bridge

This bridge type uses a pontic cemented to a single abutment tooth. That means you need only one natural tooth or crown to serve as an anchor next to the gap.

3. Maryland bridge

The Maryland bridge also requires two abutment teeth, one on either side of the gap. Instead of using dental crowns, though, it employs a metal or porcelain framework bonded to the backs of the abutment teeth

4. Implant-supported bridge

Implant-supported bridges use dental implants surgically screwed into the jawbone; the implants are what hold the bridge in position. If you have multiple missing teeth and it’s not possible or desirable to use a single implant for each missing tooth, we may use a pontic suspended between two implant-supported crowns.

So, which option is best for you? It depends on the number of teeth you’re missing, your overall oral health, and the cost involved. Dr. Lobrot discusses all your options with you at your consultation. To learn more, or to schedule your consultation, call Back of the Wasatch Family and Cosmetic Dentistry at 435-654-4500, or book online with us today.