Let us start with some definitions, to avoid confusion!
A Crown, which is sometimes mistakenly called a ‘cap’, is typically a laboratory made restoration which encases a tooth. Crowns are used for cosmetic reasons or to strengthen a heavily restored tooth.
Crowns can be tooth coloured or metallic, with a metal crown, covered in porcelain, considered by many as traditional.
But in certain light, this can make the tooth look dull and lifeless. An alternative is for the crown to be made of solid porcelain, which will give a more natural look to the tooth.
The tooth is reduced by an appropriate amount so that the thickness of the finished crown brings the tooth back to a normal size.
An Inlay is similar to a filling, except typically also made in a laboratory. They are placed wholly or partly within a tooth and again can be tooth coloured or metallic.
The advantage of an inlay over a filling is the inherent strength that the lab production process gives, plus giving greater flexibility to build up a tooth, or match cosmetic needs.
The advantage over a crown is that an inlay can be more conservative of the remaining tooth while still providing some support to a weakened tooth structure.
However an inlay cannot be placed a lot of situations where a crown can be used.
Veneers are normally made of porcelain and are placed mainly for cosmetic reasons, rather than strength and support. A veneer is also typically made in a laboratory and is a thin covering of material that is cemented over the outer face of a tooth.
A veneer can potentially be placed on any tooth, but most commonly they are used on the upper front teeth to lighten, cover discolourations, chips and unsightly fillings, or make minor adjustments to the position of teeth.
Note that more major adjustments may need a crown for the additional strength it provides and that orthodontics (braces) may represent a better option for repositioning teeth.
CEREC single visit crowns, inlays and veneers are made on-site, avoiding the inconvenience of multiple appointments and the need to have a temporary crown / restoration in place whilst waiting for laboratory work. This state of the art service is only available privately. More information on CEREC can be found here »
Crowns, inlays and veneers can be provided on the NHS, but are only offered where they are clinically needed, not purely for cosmetic reasons. On back teeth, crowns and inlays on the NHS would only be offered as metallic, not tooth coloured restorations.
Privately these restorations can be placed on any suitable tooth and can be placed electively, purely for cosmetic reasons. Patients often opt for private crowns, inlays and veneers to:
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