What You Should Know About Dental Crown Alternatives
Dental crowns may not be the best option for every patient in need of a tooth replacement. Varying types of dental fillings can work as dental crown alternatives if teeth have not suffered dramatic damage.
According to Michelle DeFelice, DDS, of St. John's Family Dentistry in St. Augustine, FL, alternatives to dental crowns include partial crowns, or inlays and onlays (also known as indirect fillings) with CEREC machines.
"It is easier to do with a CEREC machine because you mill the restoration yourself," Dr. DeFelice says. "The unique margin design doesn't have to be managed by your assistant and/or your lab technician."
Onlays and 3/4 crowns cover the underlying tooth less than a traditional crown, which covers the entire tooth. Though they are considered dental crown alternatives, these restorations are basically modified crowns and used for less severe circumstances.
An inlay works completely on the chewing surface of one tooth or on the "cusps," or bumps. An onlay covers more surface than an inlay and extends over several cusps instead of just one.
Price Differences and Durability of Dental Crown Alternatives
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, crowns may cost up to six times as much as alternative methods, and small differences in crowns can create big price differentials.
David Allen, DMD, of W. David Allen Dentistry in Athens, GA, says the choice depends on the condition of the unhealthy tooth. Dr. Allen says large fillings (inlays and onlays) can last for an unknown amount of time – from a week to a few years – and in certain situations, only crowns will do the job.
Traditionally, dental crowns can last anywhere from five to 15 years, depending on wear and tear and if they are cared for properly. If people refrain from teeth grinding and practice good oral hygiene, the dental crowns can last even longer.
Allen says he often considers fillings to be a way to buy time before a longer-lasting crown.
When Are Dental Crown Alternatives the Best Solution?
Indirect fillings are often the solution over a full crown when a tooth is not severely damaged, but there is not enough "tooth structure" to hold a filling. Indirect fillings are much like composites or tooth-colored fillings. However, patients must make two visits to the dentist before the indirect flings are placed then they are created in dental labs.
During your two visits, any tooth decay or old fillings are removed from your mouth. Then, an impression is made to store the shape of the damaged tooth and surrounding teeth. While the indirect filling is being made, a temporary filling is used in its place, and given it is a good fit, the indirect fillings will be permanently cemented down.