When a tooth has sustained a significant amount of decay or damage, the patient is often given a single option – a “crown”. There are many instances where a dental crown is required to restore a tooth to its original form and function, however there are instances where a more conservative option is appropriate.
A crown itself is a restoration that covers the entire tooth, much like its name suggests. By covering the entire tooth, it becomes protected from future fracture or decay. However, in order to allow the restoration to completely cover the tooth, a significant amount of healthy tooth structure may need to be removed.
There are other options that can help support and protect the tooth like a crown does, however, doesn’t require nearly as much of the natural tooth structure to be removed. These types of restorations are called “inlays” and “onlays”. These types of restorations are made of either porcelain or gold by a dental laboratory, which can be very strong (much stronger than a standard filling). These are intricately designed by the dentist in order to strategically cover portions of the tooth which have been affected, however preserves a maximal amount of natural, healthy tooth structure. These can be very esthetic and last many, many years.