Crowns (Caps) & Bridges

What are crowns and bridges?

A crown is a “cap” that covers the entire surface of the tooth above the gums. While crowns cover single teeth, bridges cover several. A bridge is an artificial tooth structure, or prosthesis, that spans multiple teeth. Bridges are anchored on either end with a crown or set of crowns.

Do I need a crown or a bridge?

If a tooth is no longer structurally stable, a crown or bridge may be necessary to restore it. For a single tooth needing reinforcement, a crown stabilizes it by covering the outer layer of enamel or filling material. If a tooth needs a crown and already has a cavity filling, the dentist will likely replace the filling to ensure the crown has a sturdy foundation.

Your dentist may recommend a bridge if the goal of treatment is to replace a missing tooth. The bridge will connect two or more crowns with an artificial tooth called a pontic that sits on top of the gums in the spaces. Unlike a partial denture, a bridge is permanent, so it won’t be taken in and out.

What to Expect

After the dentist and patient determine that a crown or bridge is the best option for the circumstance, the dentist will recommend a material. Usually, this will be one of several options, including porcelain, zirconia, and porcelain bonded to metal. Each material has a slightly different benefit and timeline—between one and three appointments. If same-day delivery is not possible for your case, the dentist will give you a temporary crown or bridge to use in the interim. The exact procedure for a crown or bridge varies depending on the material used. Regardless of the material chosen, the recovery for a crown or bridge treatment is minimal. Patients may experience only slight sensitivity for about a week.

How to Take Care of Your Crown or Bridge

Temporary crowns and bridges are not built to last long periods of time—just until the permanent one is ready to cement. Be very careful and avoid hard or sticky foods which can damage temporary crowns and bridges.

In the first four hours after your permanent bridge or crown is cemented, be careful and avoid hot or sticky foods and drinks. After that time has passed, you can eat and drink as you normally would.  

Remember to keep up your oral hygiene routine, paying special attention to the area around the bridge or crown. Even with a crown, you can still have cavities as bacteria can collect around the margin of the tooth. With a bridge, be sure to clean the area under the pontic tooth. Regular, thorough, brushing and flossing are key to keeping your bridge or crown in good condition.