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Crowns vs. Bridges: How Are They Different?

Aug 03, 2023
You have tons of options if you want to fix your smile — that’s the good and the bad news. So, our experts are breaking it all down and helping you sort through your options. Here’s everything you should know about what crowns and bridges can offer.

Crowns or bridges? It’s a question we get a lot from our patients, and it’s not hard to see why. Modern dentistry has afforded folks more options than ever before, but innovation also makes it tough to make sense of what you really need.   

That’s why at Campustown Dental, we’re dedicated to providing both top-notch care and the best information to make sure you feel completely comfortable with your treatments. 

In this blog, Drs. Scott McPherson and Jason Brown cover the basics of dentistry’s two most popular (and most misunderstood) appliances: crowns and bridges

Comparing and contrasting crowns and bridges

Crowns and bridges share a common goal: to fix your smile. But they accomplish it very differently. Here’s a closer look.


Much like the crown a royal slips on his head, dental crowns are small caps your teeth “wear.” Crowns are typically made from porcelain, making them sturdy enough to fix your smile problems and blend in with your other teeth.     

We recommend crowns to address problems with individual teeth that are:

  • Severely worn down
  • Cracked
  • Weak
  • Damaged by cavities

Crowns are also the integral last step of a root canal.  

We prepare your teeth for a crown by carefully shaving your natural tooth to create a solid base. Then, we take a mold of your prepared tooth and fit you for a temporary crown to protect it while we wait for your permanent crown to come in.  

We send the mold of your teeth to a lab where specialists create your permanent crown. With advanced cosmetic dentistry techniques, the labs can design your crown to almost exactly match the shade of your natural teeth, giving you a cohesive smile.  

A couple of weeks after your first appointment, your permanent crown arrives at our office. During your second appointment, we remove the temporary crown and attach the permanent one. You leave our office facing the world with a brand-new smile. 

 The best part? You don’t have to change your oral hygiene routine at all. As long as you avoid bad habits like biting down on hard foods or grinding your teeth and commit to brushing and flossing twice daily, your crown should last 5-15 years. 

Sometimes, trauma and improper care can weaken your crowns and even cause them to come loose. Don’t panic. We check your crowns at every check-up and can fix them quickly if we notice damage.   


Crowns reinforce and cover flaws in individual teeth, but we call in bridges when you have one or more missing teeth. 

 It’s crucial to replace missing teeth as quickly as possible to avoid complications, such as:

  • Problems chewing
  • Changes in your speech
  • Changes in the shape of your face
  • Unnatural force distribution when biting
  • Shifting of remaining teeth

There are four main types of bridges, but the most common (traditional bridges) are false teeth held in place by either implants or dental crowns that we’ve cemented onto abutment teeth. This network effectively “bridges” the gaps in your smile.  

The first step in placing a bridge is to prepare the abutment teeth on one or both sides of the gap for a crown. Then, we cement a false tooth to the crown (or crowns) to create a bridge of teeth. 

The crowns slide onto the abutment teeth, and the false tooth fits perfectly in the gap, leaving you with a seamless mile. 

Depending on your needs and the location of your missing tooth, we may recommend a different type of bridge. For instance, cantilever bridges only require one abutment tooth, so we use them in cases where you only have one natural tooth for support. 

Maryland bridges involve attaching supportive metal frames to the backs of the abutment teeth instead of crowns, which requires much less prep work. 

Implant-supported dentures use dental implants as a foundation, instead of crowns or metal supports. We consider these to be the most durable of the four types of bridges, but you do have to go through both the dental implant and the dental bridge process. 

Similar to crowns, dental bridges can last for many years with regular oral hygiene care and dental checkups. 

Looking for more information about which appliance is right for you? We’d love to discuss your smile problems with you and help you choose the best path forward. Call our friendly staff at 515-292-7262 or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment at our Ames, Iowa office today.