Some teeth require a complete or partial coverage of the tooth structure to protect them. In some instances a part of the tooth may have been fractured off, a filling may be too large, or there may too much decay in the tooth to place a filling. In these cases either a full coverage crown, inlay or onlay be be needed.
An inlay or onlay is a lab fabricated restorative piece that fits nicely onto your tooth to replace the lost tooth structure. The advantage of this versus a crown is that less tooth structure needs to be removed in order to fully protect the tooth. Inlays and onlays can be made of gold, porcelain or lab fabricated composite.
For teeth which require crowns, one of the best esthetic options today is a Zirconia fused to porcelain crown. These crowns are extremely natural looking as well as durable and strong.
Zirconia is a material which is very similar to the translucency of tooth structure and unlike traditional metal fused to porcelain crowns, it allows light to pass through, giving it an very natural look. It is stronger than pure porcelain crowns and can have the same great esthetic result. Metal crowns can cause a black hue to gums overtime and are especially noticeable when a patient smiles.
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Crowns, Inlays-onlays have distinct advantages for different patients. When a large filling can no longer be replaced as a filling, your dentist should give you the following options. Remember there is nothing stronger than your own tooth structure; onlay’s and inlays conserve more of your tooth.
With the advent of new materials like E-max, onlays are now the restorations of choice and in most cases are indicated for conservation of tooth structure.
While your dentist always wants to provide you with restorative procedures that last you a long time, virtually no procedure can really be considered “permanent” in dentistry. Crowns and inlays/onlays will last between five and fifteen years on average, but this is mostly dependent on the amount of stress they endure and the ‘patient’s oral hygiene. With proper care, crowns, inlays, and onlays can last a lifetime.