When our teeth break down, either from decay, trauma or normal wear and tear. There are many ways to restore the health and function of your tooth. And there are advantages and disadvantages to each way.
When the defect is small, such as a small hole or an early cavity. Normally our first choice for filling the tooth will be a conservative composite restoration. Also known as a “white filling”. The procedure does not require a lot of tooth preparation (drilling) and is relatively quick and can be done in one visit. And the cost is also less compared to other more major restorations. Some downsides for fillings are they may not last as long as some of our stronger materials. Especially when the defect isn’t quite so small anymore. For example, if a tooth has an entire cusp compromised, it’s generally better to upgrade. Although there are times, because of time, cost or convenience we will place a filling, until something more permanent can be placed.
As the defect gets larger, or we need to focus on strength a little bit more, we move onto inlays and onlays. These are generally lab fabricated restorations or milled from a cad cam unit. They offer better strength and aesthetics. Lab Fabricated restorations can generally last longer than direct chairside fillings. Some downsides are that they take longer to prepare, cost more, there may be a time that you’ll need to be a temporary while the restoration is made and there’s the time it takes to deliver the restoration.
Finally if a significant portion of the tooth needs to be restored, we may consider crowns. This is where the tooth is reduced a bit, and a lab fabricated or cad/cam milled crown is used. Aesthetically these will offer the best appearance. And these restorations will generally be the strongest that you can have. Time and cost will often be the highest for crowns.
There’s really no clear cut boundaries as to when we select one restorations over another. Multiple variables come into play, age of the patient, current habits, diet, and the entire set of teeth. Feel free to give us a call if you ever have any questions about the ways we fix teeth. Our dental office here in Charlotte is always happy to help. 704-321-0980.