When restoration for a single tooth is needed, options include a dental inlay or a crown. Both of these procedures have a purpose, and the dentist will conduct a thorough examination and recommend the one that is the better choice for the situation. One reason for either procedure is when there is a large cavity that is too large for a regular filling. Understanding the differences between the two options allows a patient to make a more informed decision.
A dental inlay is a procedure that strengthens a damaged or decayed tooth by restoring it to its original condition. It is considered to be minimally invasive and a more conservative approach than a crown. An inlay is also less expensive than a crown.
An inlay is usually used to fill the space after a large cavity is removed. Compared to a crown, an inlay is used when the cavity is within the two cusps of the tooth. Unlike a traditional filling, an inlay is pre-formed in a lab and made out of material such as ceramic, resin, or gold.
The procedure to place an inlay generally requires two visits. During the first visit, the dentist removes the decayed portion of the tooth and then takes a mold of the tooth, which is sent to a dental lab. The dentist places a temporary restoration on the tooth until the inlay is completed.
During the second visit, the tooth is thoroughly cleaned. The inlay is placed, and the dentist makes any necessary adjustments to ensure a proper fit. The dental inlay is then permanently bonded to the tooth and polished for a natural appearance.
A dental crown is used for more major tooth restorations, such as when a tooth is weak, cracked, or worn down. It is a more complicated procedure than a dental inlay, and it usually costs more money, especially when more expensive material, such as gold, is used.
Like an inlay, a crown can cover an area where a cavity has been removed. The difference is that a crown is used when the tooth’s entire biting surface needs to be covered.
The process for crown placement also typically takes two visits. The first visit includes an examination and perhaps X-rays of the decayed tooth. The cavity is removed, and then the dentist files down and removes some of the tooth’s outer layer. An impression of the tooth and surrounding teeth is made to send to the lab. A temporary crown is then placed. During the second visit, the crown is placed, adjusted as needed, and then cemented into place.
A dental inlay and crown can both be used to fill in the area of a cavity in a tooth. However, a crown fills a bigger area. They both require two visits for completion unless the dentist has a lab onsite. The life span of both ranges from five to 20 years, depending on the materials used and oral hygiene habits. Patients should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each with their dentist before making a decision.
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