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Crowns are restorations which completely cover all the surfaces of a tooth in order to restore its shape, size, and strength.
A crown is recommended when a tooth has been broken down by decay, or has a previous restoration that has fractured and a filling would not adequately solve the problem. If a tooth is cracked, a crown holds the tooth together to seal the cracks preventing further damage. In situations where there is little tooth structure left, a tooth cannot support a large filling. Other reasons for using a crown include: to attach a bridge, protect weak teeth from fracturing, restore fractured teeth or cover badly shaped or discolored teeth. Root canaled teeth are also crowned if a significant amount of the tooth is missing or if the dentist feels that the tooth will last longer by protecting it with the crown.
There are several types of crowns. The dentist and patient will make the decision as to which one is best for patient.
For more information on crowns visit this article: What are Crowns?
POSTERIOR INLAY & ONLAY
In some cases if a patient’s tooth has extensive decay or a deep fracture that compromises the perimeter walls of a tooth, a composite filling might not be strong enough to withstand occlusal forces (normal chewing). Usually in this situation, the dentist will use a crown to restore the compromised teeth. Depending on the extent of the tooth’s deterioration, an inlay or onlay may be an alternative. A crown covers all surfaces of a tooth, whereas inlays and onlays only cover part of the tooth. One benefit of using an inlay or onlay rather than a crown would be that not as much tooth structure has to be removed.
An inlay is a restoration (filling) consisting of porcelain or metallic gold that is bonded on the tooth to restore the beauty, durability, and function of the tooth. Similar to fillings, inlays are custom-made to fit the cavity in your tooth and are usually the same color as the tooth or gold. When an inlay is used, the tooth-to-restoration margin may be finished and polished to such a super-fine line of contact that the chances of decay returning are almost impossible. While these restorations might cost more than the price of direct restorations, the superiority of an inlay in terms of resistance to occlusal forces, protection against recurrent decay, precision of fabrication, marginal integrity, proper contouring for gingival (tissue) health, and ease of cleansing offers an excellent alternative to the direct restoration
An onlay is the same as an inlay, except that it is used for more substantial reconstruction. An onlay extends farther than an inlay to replace a cusp. The onlay allows for conservation of tooth structure when the only alternative is to totally eliminate cusps and perimeter walls for restoration with a crown. Similar to an inlay, an onlay is an indirect restoration which incorporates a cusp or cusps by covering or onlaying the missing cusps. All of the benefits of an inlay are present in the onlay restoration.