What is a dental inlay? What about a dental onlay? When would your dentist recommend an inlay or onlay? The answers may be more familiar than you think. Dental inlays and dental onlays are both options for fillings, a common dental procedure to correct tooth decay. Here’s some more information to fill in these gaps, so to speak, and get a better idea of why your dentist might recommend one of these treatments for your cavity or injury.
What is an inlay?
A dental inlay is pre-molded to fill the space in between the cusps, or rounded edges, at the center of the tooth’s surface. Your dentist may suggest this restorative method to repair a tooth after it sustains harm from injury or decay that does not affect the cusps of the tooth. To put a dental inlay in place, the patient is numbed using a local anesthetic and the dentist drills the tooth to remove decay and clean the area surrounding this corrosion. The dentist takes an impression and sends it to a laboratory where the inlay is made. Inlays are manufactured from porcelain or composite resin material matching the color of the tooth. Because of this, inlays provide almost invisible dental restoration while repairing the chewing surface. In general, dental inlays are more durable than regular fillings made from composite or amalgam, but gold inlays are the most durable, and the most expensive, of the materials available.
What is an onlay?
Dental onlays are also pre-molded tooth restorations; however, dental onlays cover one or more cusps and extend over the biting surface of the tooth. Because of their extensive coverage, dental onlays are sometimes referred to as partial crowns. Your dentist might decide to fit an onlay because the tooth structure is weak and might crack if filled with a regular filling. Alternatively, they may choose to use an onlay instead of a crown to avoid removing healthy tooth structure. Onlays offer the benefits of strengthening teeth and providing an attractive cosmetic finish. Porcelain and ceramic onlays are effective tooth restorations for front teeth because they can be stained to match the surrounding teeth. Additionally, porcelain and ceramic onlays allow the dentist to bond the onlay to the tooth, creating an effective seal. Molars and pre-molars aren’t as visible, so for these teeth gold or resin are the best onlay materials because they are strong and durable. Onlay preparation and placement each take one visit to your dentist, but the resulting restoration will last for years. When the permanent onlay is fitted, the tooth is stronger and looks better.
When is an inlay or onlay necessary?
Inlays and onlays may be used for different areas of the tooth, but ultimately both are restorative methods for correcting tooth decay. When a tooth is too damaged to support a typical filling but not damaged enough for a dental crown, you end up somewhere in the middle. Capping a damaged tooth with a dental crown removes more tooth structure than might be necessary. But, a large dental filling might weaken the remaining structure of the tooth, causing the tooth to break or crack and ultimately calling for additional dental work. When faced with the choice between a dental crown or a large tooth filling, inlays and onlays can be useful alternatives. These alternatives to drastic crowns or large fillings allow you save as much of the healthy tooth as possible while strengthening the remaining tooth. Even better, inlays and onlays also have a natural look that matches the rest of your smile.
In maintaining your smile and healthy teeth, prevention is always key. Make sure to choose products which helps replenish natural calcium and fights cavities. If you sustain damage in spite of good oral hygiene, a dental inlay or onlay might be the way to go. Your dentist is likely to recommend one instead of a regular filling if the damage to the biting surface matches any of these criteria:
- Broken, fractured or decayed teeth where it does not affect the cusp of the tooth
- Damage extensive enough to require a large dental filling that may weaken the remaining structure
- Level of injury does not allow for removal of enough tooth material to support mounting a crown
Inlays, onlays, and fillings all restore your smile while preventing further decay. Your dentist will be able to advise which is the best option for you.
If you have any questions about inlays and onlays, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.