Tooth restoration is necessary whenever the structure, function or comfort of a tooth has been compromised. However, with many different tooth restoration procedures available, one may wonder what causes their dentist to choose one procedure over the other. For example, one may wonder why an inlay or onlay may be more appropriate than a filling.
Inlays and onlays are types of tooth restorations that are often used where tooth damage due to injury or decay is too extensive to allow for the use of dental fillings, but not quite extensive enough to justify the use of a dental crown. This means that the tooth may be cracked or fractured, or have mild to moderate decay, and will not be sufficiently strengthened through the use of a filling, but has enough healthy, natural tooth structure remaining that the extra support provided by a crown is not necessary.
The Benefits of Inlays and Onlays
When considering whether a dental filling can work to restore a tooth, or whether an inlay or onlay is the more appropriate choice, your dentist will consider some of the benefits that inlays and onlays have over metal fillings, and whether these are appropriate reasons for you to have them. Some of these benefits include:
- Inlays and onlays can be more durable and more long-lasting than fillings. They are made to withstand normal biting forces and can last up to three decades when well cared-for.
- Where metal fillings can reduce the strength of teeth by as much as 50 percent, inlays and onlays can actually improve the strength of teeth by as much as 75 percent.
- Metal fillings often have to be removed and replaced, and it is not unusual for the dentist to discover that the tooth needs even more restoration or support than it was receiving through that filling. In contrast, inlays and onlays can actually prolong the life of natural tooth structure and reduce the chance of further restoration treatment becoming necessary in the future.
What are Inlays and Onlays
A dental inlay is not dissimilar to a traditional filling, and usually fits inside the cusp tips of the tooth. A dental onlay, however, is a bit larger, and extends over the cusp tips of the tooth. In order to place a dental inlay or onlay, your dentist will first administer local anesthesia in order to ensure you are as comfortable as possible throughout the procedure. Then, he will remove any old fillings and clean up the tooth as is necessary to remove any decay or damaged tooth structure. He will then take a dental impression of the tooth, which will be sent to a dental laboratory so the inlay or onlay can be custom-made to fit that tooth. In the interim, the dentist will place a temporary inlay or onlay over the prepared tooth in order to protect it.
Inlays and onlays are commonly made out of porcelain, since this can be closely matched to your natural tooth color and will therefore blend in when placed in your mouth. However, they can also be made out of composite resin or gold in order to provide additional strength. Your dentist will discuss with you the material that will work best to your needs and desires, and send this information to the dental laboratory along with the impression taken of your tooth.
During the second visit, the dentist will remove the temporary inlay or onlay and place the permanent inlay or onlay. Once they have determined proper fit, they will cement the inlay or onlay in place with a strong resin adhesive. Though it is not unusual for an inlay or onlay to feel slightly odd for a short time after placement, it will soon feel natural and comfortable, allowing one to speak and eat normally. Any sore or sensitive tissue around the tooth should resolve within a few days.
Caring for Inlays and Onlays
Inlays and onlays are best cared for through good oral hygiene habits. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing your teeth once a day, and visiting your dentist every six months for examinations and cleanings. You can also better protect your inlays and onlays from wear and damage by avoiding chewing on hard things, such as ice and pencils.
For more information about inlays and onlays, contact Today’s Dental now.