There are many different ways to repair teeth which have been damaged due to disease, wear, or trauma. Fillings, crowns, inlays and onlays come in many shapes, sizes, and can be made from a wide variety of materials. All of these are often referred to as restorations, for the goal is to restore the tooth to its natural shape, size, and function. Below are just a few of the more common options used in our office.
Today, fillings which are placed in a tooth in the office are primarily of two types: Silver amalgam and Composite (White) resin. Silver fillings have been used safely for hundreds of years and are less expensive than composite restorations. However, their esthetics leave much to be desired. Composite resins are newer high tech materials which can chemically bond to the tooth. Due to the much nicer appearance of composite fillings, they are the first choice for most people today in both front and back teeth. They are durable and may even help strengthen weak teeth. Fillings take one visit to complete.
Crowns are restorations which cover the entire tooth: top, sides, front, and back. They are made primarily of two materials, metal and porcelain, or a combination of these two. The metals used can be categorized as non precious, semi-precious, and precious (gold.) Some people can have allergies to these metals (especially non-precious alloys), so proper care in selection can be important. In our office, we use precious alloys almost exclusively for their higher quality and value. Molars back in the mouth are best covered with full gold crowns, while anterior teeth are more pleasing as porcelain or porcelain fused over gold crowns. Porcelain crowns can be used on molars too if the patient desires, though there is a slight increased risk of chipping the porcelain in the back due to chewing forces. Crowns usually take two visits to complete.
Inlays and Onlays
Like crowns, inlays and onlays are generally made of metal or porcelain, but can also be made of special type of composite. They are usually reserved for back teeth. When completed, an inlay will be more like a filling in size, while an onlay is more like a crown. The onlay usually covers the top, front, and back of a tooth, but not the sides; it is sometimes also referred to as an overlay. Inlays and onlays are more costly than fillings, but have the advantage of longer durability with proper care. They usually take two visits to complete.