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Fillings vs Inlays vs Onlays vs Crowns – What is the difference?

The treatments for restoration of missed and decayed teeth, cracked and chipped teeth, and teeth that require reshaping or resizing include; dental fillings, inlays, onlays and crowns. All these treatments are basically used to fill any gaps inside the tooth or on top of the tooth. The difference is the size of the filling material used in the treatment and durability.

The dental fillings are used to fill the gap created by removing the decay and cleaning the debris, after removal of the decay.

Inlays are almost same as dental fillings, except that it covers a little bigger area on the tooth created by fractures or injuries to the tooth, between the cusps.

Onlays are very much similar to inlays, but covers a larger area, and are used when the area that has to be filled in is even larger than what inlays can cover, including the cusps.

Crowns are little different in the sense that they cover the entire surface of the tooth including the fillings in the tooth if there is a decay and the cavity is filled with dental fillings.

All these treatments differ in the areas of the tooth they cover and the extent of invasiveness for them to be used.

Dental Fillings
They are very useful and very pervasive treatment which are commonly used by dentists to fill dental caries. The dental fillings are available in a variety of materials depending on the looks, budget and durability.

Procedure for filling the cavities with dental fillings:  The procedure starts with your visit to the dentist with the complaint of tooth decay. After examining the damage done by the decay, the dentist will set up an appointment for removing the decay and cleaning the area. There are special tools which are used for removing debris and sanitizing the area. The area is anaesthetized first.

After removing the decay and cleaning the area with antibiotic spray, the dentist will fill the cavity with a temporary filling so that no further damage can be done in the cavity. When the roots are visible from the cleaned cavity, the dentist will protect the root and nerves attached to it with glass ionomers lining. The dental filling has to be chosen by you with your dentist’s help to fill the cavity permanently so that no further bacterial growth can recur. The cavity is then filled with the dental filling of your choice. The dental filling is filled in and it is sealed in with the help of laser light which activates the chemical in the filling and hardens it so that it will stay in place.

The dental fillings are available in materials including, metal, porcelain and silver amalgam, and composite resin. All these materials are different in their looks and durability and you can choose any of this in consultation with your dentist depending upon the cost and your budget. Gold is popular among metal fillings, because of its durability. Silver amalgam is used by many for its cost because it is less expensive than gold or porcelain. Composite resin materials can be made to match your teeth colour and looks good.

In some cases, after the dental fillings are done with, the dentist may suggest to cap the tooth with a crown which again is made with the colour matching to its neighbouring teeth.

Inlays
Inlays are same as fillings and they are sometimes used interchangeably, but inlays are for bigger spaces of fillings. The difference also lies in the materials used to fill the cavity. While dental fillings are done in the office in the same visit as the cleaning process, the inlays are made in the lab and have to be ordered so it takes one more visit to the dentist. Inlays are a single fabricated piece usually made of gold or ceramic and is made in the exact size and shape of the space created in the cavity.

Inlays are moulds which are fitted onto the surface of the damaged and decayed tooth. The inlay is made with the correct imaging of the damaged area of the tooth and made to look the exact colour of the original tooth, custom made. Since the imprint has been taken, it will fit securely onto the hollow of the tooth, but will not cover the cusps. They are unnoticeable, and is long lasting, and may be a little more expensive than others. When dental filling is not enough to strengthen the affected tooth, inlays is chosen to fortify the surrounding the cavity.

Inlays can last a lifetime. The durability of inlays also depends on the patient and their oral hygiene habits.

Onlays
Onlays are also long lasting and used to strengthen the decayed and damaged tooth, to maintain the structure of the tooth. The procedure to fix the only is similar to the preparations done for the dental fillings in the cavity. The dentist cleans the decayed part of the tooth using anaesthesia. The onlay is then placed over the tooth surface which has been custom made after taking impression of the same. The tooth structure is preserved because enamel is not scrapped so tooth remains intact. They are sometimes called partial crowns because they act almost like a crown.

Crowns
Crown is the restored artificial tooth cap that is placed on top of the existing tooth to cover the damaged and decayed tooth. After decayed part of the tooth is cleaned by the dentist with special tools and application of anaesthesia, the tooth cavity is filled with dental filling.

To keep the tooth from getting fractured with a large dental filling the dentist has to protect the tooth by covering it with an artificial tooth made to order with taking impressions of the original tooth using porcelain or composite materials to match the colour of other teeth in the mouth. The tooth has to be scraped a little from all sides to fit the artificial crown on it.

Book a consultation with Dr Luc to see which option is best best suited to you.

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