Dental inlays are used to treat teeth that have decay or damage lying within their indented top surfaces. They can also be used to replace old, damaged or deteriorating metal or composite fillings. Inlay placement is usually carried out over two appointments. During your first visit, an impression of your tooth will be taken, and a temporary inlay will be placed over the tooth. Dr. Herman will send the impression off to a dental lab, which will create the inlay to match your tooth’s specifications. When you return to the office, the temporary inlay will be removed and the permanent one will be placed carefully over your tooth.
Since dental inlays and onlays can be made from durable, tooth-colored porcelain, they offer much more enduring and natural-looking results than metal fillings. In addition, their customized nature allows dentists to securely bond them to the tooth surface, adding structural integrity and preventing bacteria from entering and forming cavities.
Whereas dental inlays are designed to treat decay within the cusps, or top projections, of a tooth, onlays are used to treat decay that extends to one or more of the cusps. Onlays are placed in much the same way as inlays. First, an impression of the decayed tooth is taken, and a temporary onlay is placed over the tooth. The impression is then sent to a lab, where a dental technician creates the onlay according to the tooth’s dimensions. When the patient returns to the office, the temporary onlay is removed, and the permanent restoration is placed on the tooth and securely bonded using high-strength dental resins.
Like dental inlays, onlays can be created from tooth-colored material, which makes them virtually undetectable to the naked eye. Onlays also help to conserve more tooth structure because their use requires minimal removal a tooth’s surface. Perhaps their most important benefit, however, is that, in saving damaged teeth, onlays help patients avoid the eventual need for more extensive treatment with dental crowns, dental bridges, or dental implants.
Benefits of Dental Inlays and Onlays
In treating dental decay, inlays and onlays help to eliminate tooth sensitivity and eventual tooth loss. Inlays and onlays also offer the following benefits:
- Since they can be made from tooth-colored material, including porcelain and composite resin, inlays and onlays are virtually invisible.
- Unlike metal fillings, inlays and onlays will not expand or contract in response to temperature changes caused by hot or cold foods. This change in size can cause teeth to weaken or fracture.
- The use of inlays and onlays requires less tooth reduction than does the use of metal fillings. This allows dentists to conserve more of a patient’s natural tooth structure in the treatment process.
- Because of the way inlays and onlays are made, they help to strengthen teeth by up to 75 percent.
- The durable material from which inlays and onlays are made helps them last up to 30 years, much longer than that of conventional fillings.
- Inlays and onlays can replace silver fillings to create a healthier, more natural-looking smile.
- By saving decayed teeth, inlays and onlays prevent the need for more extensive treatment later on.