Crowns, inlays, and onlays are all laboratory-constructed tooth forms, designed to repair and replace tooth structure that is missing as a result of dental decay or trauma. They are the preferred alternative to more traditional fillings and offer better support and strength to your remaining tooth structure. They can be constructed from a variety of materials but we predominantly use porcelain-based materials so that can be constructed to mimic the colour and texture of your natural tooth so that they appear as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
A crown will cover the whole surface of the tooth that is above the gum. An inlay will sit inside a cavity in your tooth and an onlay will sit on top of the chewing surface of your tooth. They all serve to restore strength and structure to a tooth with a compromised structure.
Root canal treatment increases the long-term risk of tooth fracture under the forces of biting. The reason we recommend a crown, or onlay, is placed on a tooth after root canal treatment is to prevent it from fracturing, as well as provide it with an layer of protection against the influx of bacteria a second time into the root canal system.
Unless there is a large amount of tooth surface missing or you have had root canal treatment in a front tooth, we prefer to veneers as opposed to crowns to improve the aesthetic appearance of your front teeth. Veneers are much more conservative and require less tooth adjustment, but do tend to be less durable than crowns. Your dentist will advise you what is best suited to your specific needs after assessing your teeth.
Conventional fillings tend to a shrink when they set and can lead to micro gaps between the filling and the tooth. Long-term these micro gaps may, in some circumstances, lead to problems of sensitivity and decay. As inlays and onlays are constructed from more robust materials in a lab, prior to cementation in your mouth, they are less affected by this shrinkage. Thus, they can last longer, especially when a larger quantity of tooth surface is missing. They will require 2 visits to enable the lab to construct the inlay, or onlay, after the tooth has been prepared.
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