Fillings, Inlays & Onlays, Crowns: What’s the Difference?

June 4, 2020 Grandville Dental Health Center

fillings inlays onlays crowns dentist Grandville MIIt’s never fun to go to the dentist and learn you have a cavity. However, catching cavities early often means that you have more options for restoration. Instead of having to deal with advanced tooth decay and potential tooth loss, our restorative dentists can use fillings, inlays & onlays, and dental crowns to restore your smile. It’s one of the reasons we recommend seeing our dentists every six months for a routine teeth cleaning and oral exam so we can catch cavities when they’re small and easy to fix.

But what’s the difference between fillings, inlays & onlays, and crowns? Which restoration is right for you?

What Is a Composite Filling?

Fillings are perhaps one of the most common dental services we offer. Research has shown that the average American has three fillings, and 25% of Americans have 11 fillings or more.

A composite filling matches the color of your natural tooth enamel. Often known as white fillings, they are made of a composite resin instead of something more noticeable like silver.

Getting a Filling

The procedure to get a filling is a simple process. Our restorative dentists will numb your tooth before removing the tooth decay with a dental drill. Then, they’ll fill the hole with a composite filling, restoring both the look and the function of your tooth. 

What Are Inlays & Onlays?

If your cavity is too large for a filling, then our dentists may recommend an inlay or onlay instead.

We use inlays when your cavity is too large for a filling. We use onlays when your cavity includes a cusp (corner) of your tooth. Both are made as a single piece instead of being molded directly onto your tooth. Like a custom-made puzzle piece, the dental lab will make your inlay or onlay, and then our dentists will fit it into place on your tooth.

Getting an Inlay or Onlay

To get an inlay or inlay, our dentists will first remove your tooth decay. Then, they’ll take impressions of your tooth to send to a dental lab, where your inlay or onlay will be made. In the meantime, you’ll wear a temporary cover on your tooth.

When your inlay or onlay is ready, you’ll come into our office for a second appointment and our dentists will replace your temporary cover with your inlay or onlay.

What Is a Dental Crown?

If your cavity is too large for a filling, an inlay, or an onlay, then our dentists will recommend a dental crown.

A dental crown is like a tooth cap that covers the entire visible portion of your tooth above your gums. Because dental crowns completely cover your visible tooth, they’re a great option for large cavities or other types of injury or decay. For example, if you fractured your tooth in a bike accident, a dental crown could restore both the look and function of your tooth.

Getting a Dental Crown

First, our dentists will remove the decay from your tooth. Then, they’ll remove some of your tooth enamel so your tooth can receive a crown.

Next, they’ll take impressions of your tooth, send them to a lab, and place a temporary crown on your tooth. Once your crown is finished, you’ll come in for a second appointment and our dentists will replace your temporary crown with your permanent one.

Dental Crowns and Tooth Enamel

There’s a reason our dentists don’t just automatically put a dental crown on every tooth with a cavity. In order for your dental crown to fit naturally, our dentists will have to remove some of your existing tooth structure. That means you could lose some perfectly good tooth enamel, which helps protect your teeth but is unfortunately irreplaceable.

Don’t worry — the crown will protect your tooth just as well as your enamel would. It just means that if you ever decide you don’t want a dental crown for some reason, you won’t be able to remove it without making your tooth more vulnerable to decay.

If you’re already suffering from a large cavity or dental injury, then losing a little bit of tooth enamel isn’t a cause for concern. But if your cavity is small, then our dentists will recommend a filling, inlay, or onlay first.

Restore Your Smile with the Right Procedure

Whether a filling, inlay, onlay, or crown is right for you, our Grandville, MI, restorative dentists are here to help. Call Grandville Dental Health Center today at (616) 531-0360, or contact us online to request an appointment.

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