Dental Inlays and Onlays
Both inlays and onlays are ways of repairing teeth that have been damaged. They differ from regular fillings in that the “filling” material has to be moulded in a lab. Once it is ready it is bonded to your tooth. As a result, you will have to visit the dentist’s offices twice to complete the procedure. You could say that inlays and onlays are similar to crowns, but they are more affordable and don’t require as much work to restore the tooth. Inlays are much stronger than fillings. In fact, your teeth will be stronger than ever before once your inlays or onlays are fitted.
What’s the difference between inlays and onlays?
An inlay doesn’t cover the chewing surface of the tooth. If one or more tooth cusps have to be covered, an onlay is used. In all other respects, we’re talking about the same thing: a porcelain, metal or composite resin, pre-prepared “filling” that’s much stronger than a regular composite filling while still costing less than a crown.
What’s the procedure like?
As with a regular filling, the first step is to get rid of the damaged or decayed material, preparing the tooth for its inlay or onlay. Once the area your inlays will be bonded to is cleared, Dr. Jain can take an impression so that the laboratory can make a perfectly fitting “replacement part”. She also specifies the exact colour the inlays should be so that the repair is virtually invisible.
While you’re waiting for your inlays or onlays from the lab, you will make do with a temporary filling that allows you to eat normally, and protects the prepared surface for the time being.
Once your inlays or onlays arrive, the temporary filling is removed, and the dentist tests them to see that they will fit as planned. Now it’s only a matter of cementing them into place, drying the cement with a light, giving them a shine, and the whole procedure is over.
Inlays and onlays can be made from a range of materials. Composite is cheaper, porcelain looks more natural. As a result, most people opt for porcelain inlays and onlays towards the front of the mouth where the appearance of the teeth is most important. For teeth further back, metal or composite materials can be used. Composite materials are less obtrusive than metal, and they tolerate tooth grinding as well as being better for those who have a misaligned bite.
Advantages of dental inlays and onlays
- Inlays and onlays fit perfectly, allowing you to clean your teeth in the regular way.
- Porcelain inlays and onlays resist staining.
- While composite filling can shrink, onlays and inlays remain the same size and shape.
- Inlays and onlays allow dentists to keep as much of the natural tooth possible, and don’t weaken teeth, allowing you to enjoy healthy teeth for longer.
When should I ask about inlays and onlays?
If your teeth need attention, a dentist will always discuss all your options with you, explaining the pros and cons of each one. But if you have old fillings that you think unsightly and would like to have them replaced, you should raise the matter with your dentist so that he can factor that into your dental treatment plan.