A dental inlays and crowns are restorative appliances that are permanently affixed to a tooth. The extent of decay or damage that a tooth has sustained determines whether an inlay or crown is needed. Both are coverings that preserve the tooth from further decay and maintain the spacing and alignment of the teeth (called the bite) for proper functioning. Inlays and crowns involve more extensive procedures than a filling. As such, inlays and crowns are customised for fit and can be made to match the natural colour of the teeth.
A dental inlay or onlay fills a cavity, usually located in the top bumpy centre of the tooth, or bite area. Dental inlays can be made of metal (usually gold), composite resin or porcelain. Dental inlays usually replace fillings because decay may lie beneath a filling, creating a large cavity. Inlays can be prepared during one office visit by the dentist--this is called a direct inlay--or the dentist can take an impression for a laboratory to cast an indirect inlay to be permanently cemented onto the tooth.
A dental crown or cap restores the tooth that is broken, extensively decayed or weak. A crown can be made of metal (usually gold alloy), ceramic or porcelain or porcelain fused to metal. Since the tooth is severely damaged, a crown is made to cover the entire tooth. Crowns are fitted to the adjacent teeth to maintain the bite and aesthetics of the mouth. The procedure for fitting crowns can take at least two dental visits because each crown must be made in a laboratory. While a permanent crown is being prepared, your dentist will fit you with a temporary crown that is less durable to cover the tooth.
Inlays and crowns are designed to preserve the remainder of the tooth and prevent further delay. Unlike fillings, inlays and crowns are made of materials that do not expand; thus further decay is reduced. The porcelain or composite used for inlays or crowns can be matched to your tooth colour, maintaining a natural look. Both are fitted closely to maintain the bite, to prevent other teeth from shifting or changes in alignment which may produce pain.
Inlays and crowns are considered prosthodontic procedures from a specialist. As noted by the Cleveland Clinic, the cost for inlays and crowns is high and is usually covered partially (if at all) by dental insurance. Inlays cover a portion of the tooth; crowns cover a more extensive area. Given the extent and cost of the procedure, be sure that the inlay or crown closely matches the colour of the adjacent teeth. While temporary coverings are worn until the permanent inlay or crown is fitted, take care to avoid sticky or hard food that may dislodge or loosen the temporary cover.
Increased sensitivity to hot or cold food an liquids is not always associated with inlays or crowns. If you experience pain or sensitivity after the inlay or crown is permanently cemented, have the fitting checked because the fitting may need to be adjusted or a replacement may be needed.
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