Bridges and crowns are fixed prosthetic devices that are cemented onto existing teeth or implants by a dentist or prosthodontist. Crowns are used most commonly to entirely cover or “cap” a damaged tooth or cover an implant. Bridges are commonly used to cover a space if you’re missing one or more teeth. They are cemented to natural teeth or implants surrounding the space where the tooth once stood.
In addition to strengthening a damaged tooth, bridges and crowns can be used to improve a tooth’s appearance, shape, alignment and dental occlusion (bite). Gaps left by missing teeth can cause the remaining teeth to shift, which can result in a bad bite. Bridges and crowns help prevent this from happening.
In recent history, crowns have been made of cast gold alloys that are strong enough to withstand the forces of chewing. Where appearance is more important, dentists use porcelain to match the color of natural teeth, but this material is more fragile than gold and can sometimes chip. Zirconia is one of several newer ceramic-like materials that combine the strength of metal with the aesthetic appeal of porcelain. A report by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health details the pros and cons of mixing and matching crown construction. While porcelain-fused crowns have been used for decades, newer materials like zirconia are still undergoing continuous development to improve their clinical performance.
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