I really surprised by the number of patients asking this question especially that we make tooth caps to strength and support teeth. Before we start our discussion about this question we have to know first what is teeth caps and the indications of using it.
Teeth caps and dental bridges are artificial porcelain or metal covers that covers the tooth crown. As we said it is usually made of metals or special ceramics with a thickness ranging from 0.75 mm- 2 mm. It is usually indicated in case of very extensive caries that destructing most of the tooth crown(so using fillings only won’t be enough ) or after root canal as the tooth becomes really fragile. On the other hand teeth bridges are false teeth that used to replace extracted tooth.
Before manufacturing a tooth cap or dental bridge the dentist have to grind the tooth or simply remove a thin layer from the natural crown to allow a space for the artificial tooth cap, The tooth reduction should be exactly to the same thickness of the cap (1-2 mm as we said before) or the tooth will become very bulky and may interfere with the normal occlusion. This tooth reduction is the cause that some patients think that their natural tooth is weakened. But this is completely wrong as we will discuss later.
In case of badly destructed teeth with a very large filling the tooth is already weakened and there is a very high incidence of filling fracture or falling, so covering the fragile tooth with a metallic cover will prevent crown fracture for sure.
In case of root canal treated tooth the tooth usually have a very large filling, and also the tooth becomes very fragile after root canal treatment due to dehydration and loos of nutrition. So covering the tooth with a strong tooth cap will be a very good choice.
Also we have to say that most of the materials we use to fabricate tooth caps are usually stronger that the natural tooth material . This is not meaning that we like to grind the natural enamel for no reason but if the case is indicated and the crown in fabricated properly there will be no harm but there will be an added protection to the weakened tooth.
In case of dental bridge the decision making is a little more harder as the teeth we grind is healthy and may be completely sound, We just want to grind it because we want to replace the neighboring extracted tooth. So the idea of grinding healthy teeth is annoying to many patients. And as a dentist i have to say that if you can afford dental implants you should use it instead of bridges as the neighboring teeth is not affected. But the problem that many patients won’t afford the high coast of the implants . So if you left the empty space untreated you will start to avoid the side of extraction in chewing which will result tartar accumulation and gum problems that may lead to more extraction in the non-functional side. So it will be much better to restore the lost tooth with bridge rather than leaving it untreated.
My final advice :if you can afford dental implants it will be the perfect choice but if you can’t so go ahead and have a dental bridge it will be great.