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All About Dental Inlays and Onlays

Most dental patients have heard of fillings and crowns. Fillings are used to repair small cavities, and crowns are often used to repair teeth with a large amount of decay. But many people are much less familiar with inlays and onlays. These restorations are offered by some dentists to repair dental cavities that fall somewhere between mild and severe, and can be an excellent choice for many patients.

The Differences between Fillings, Inlays, and Onlays

  • Fillings: Traditional fillings are offered by almost every dentist. For many years, silver amalgam was used in fillings, but over the past few years an increasing number of dentists have opted for a composite resin material, which looks and functions very much like your existing natural teeth. If you have a small cavity, your dentist typically removes the decay and repairs the structure of the tooth using a dental filling.
  • Inlays: An inlay, on the other hand, is typically used on a tooth with more decay than a traditional filling will repair. Unlike a composite filling, an inlay is made of a single piece of ceramic porcelain material that is made to exactly fit the size and shape of your cavity. After the decay is removed, your dentist will secure the inlay in place with dental cement.
  • Onlays: A dental onlay is a restoration that is used on larger sized cavities. In the spectrum of treatment methods, an onlay falls between a dental inlay and a crown. As opposed to a crown, which covers the entire area of the tooth, an onlay is designed to cover only the outer cusp of the tooth. As is the case with an inlay, a dental onlay is made from a solve piece of porcelain that is custom made for each patient.

The Procedure for Inlays and Onlays

The process involved in getting an inlay or an onlay is very similar. The first step involves your dentist removing whatever decay is present on the tooth. Next, an impression will be made of your tooth, which will be used to create the inlay/onlay. That impression will be sent to a dental lab where the permanent restoration will be made. In the interim, your dentist will seal off your tooth and provide a temporary restoration until the permanent version is ready. Once the permanent inlay/onlay is ready, your dentist will fit the space where the cavity was with the custom-made porcelain restoration and secure it with dental cement.

To find out more about inlays, onlays, fillings, and crowns, schedule an appointment with your dentist today.