Where a tooth has suffered significant decay or damage which cannot be repaired with fillings, but the roots are still strong, a crown is often the best restorative treatment.
A crown is effectively a tooth-shaped cover or cap which is firmly attached to the underlying tooth, replacing much of the original tooth surface with porcelain (ceramic) material. Crowns can be made entirely of porcelain, or can be metal-ceramic (a metal core with a ceramic overlay). They are individually prepared by a dental technician following the instructions of your dentist.
The tooth is first prepared to form a base for the crown, with removal of all decay (including root canal treatment where necessary). An impression is then taken and the crown is shaped to fit perfectly over the prepared tooth. It will be colour-matched with natural or restored neighbouring teeth.
Fitting a crown also gives the opportunity to improve the shape, position and colour of the tooth, often in combination with restorative work on other teeth to improve the overall appearance of your smile.
A bridge can be one of the most effective methods to replace a missing tooth or teeth. It comprises one or more crowns, as described above, attached to one or more artificial teeth to form a single restoration. The whole bridge is individually prepared to fit over the prepared natural teeth while replacing the missing teeth.
The simplest two-unit bridge uses a crown on one natural tooth to support a replacement for a neighbouring tooth. In some cases, to provide greater strength a three-unit bridge will have one crown at each end to support an artificial tooth in the middle. More complex bridges can use three or more crowns to support several artificial teeth.
Like crowns, bridges can be made entirely of porcelain, or can be metal-ceramic. They are individually prepared by a dental technician following the instructions of your dentist, and will be colour-matched to neighbouring natural or restored teeth.
Bridges can only be successfully fitted where the supporting teeth are strong enough to support the additional forces they will experience from the bridge. On the other hand, in cases where the teeth adjacent to a gap are healthy and do not themselves require a crown, other solutions may be considered to avoid the need to crown a healthy tooth.