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Tooth Inlays and Onlays

What are Inlays and Onlays?

An inlay refers to a filling that usually consists of gold, porcelain, or resin that is used to treat a cavity. An inlay is larger than a filling while being smaller than a crown. The difference between an inlay and a filling is that an inlay lies within the cusps on the chewing portion of the tooth. This procedure includes an impression of the tooth and creation of the restoration piece outside of the mouth. This procedure is effective for those who have extensive decays or fractures within the teeth that cannot be fixed by an intracoronal restoration. It is important to receive this procedure if you are instructed by a dentist to do so, as ignoring this issue will potentially lead to more severe tooth damage that may require emergency dentistry. There is also the option of using porcelain for the inlay procedure, utilizing a digital technology known as CADCAM. Utilizing this technology is useful as it creates a perfectly fitted inlay in either one or two visits for the patient. If the porcelain is made within a laboratory setting, two visits will be necessary for the patient.

An onlay is the same as an inlay, except that an onlay is specifically targeted towards replacing a tooth cusp. This procedure utilizes crowns in order to cover the surface of the tooth. This procedure is effective in conserving the tooth structure and will completely eliminate the cusps and walls of the tooth within the crown.

Different types of Inlays and Onlays

There are two types of inlays and onlays: direct and indirect. Direct inlays and onlays are made by the dentist within the setting of a dental office. This is an easy process for the patient to partake in, as the inlays and onlays are placed in one visit. During this process, the dentist removes the portion of the tooth that is decayed and puts resin on the tooth. The dentist will then take the inlay or onlay and cement it into the tooth, followed by a polishing of the inlay or onlay. The inlay or onlay can also be made of ceramic, and the same procedure is followed.
The indirect inlays and onlays are made in a laboratory setting, so this process takes additional time and will thus typically require two visits for the patient. The indirect inlay and onlay procedure is similar to the direct procedure, as the decayed portion of the tooth is first removed by the dentist. However, this process differs as the tooth that is being treated will receive a temporary filling so that the impression can be sent to a laboratory. At the patient’s second visit, the dentist will remove the temporary filling and cement the inlay or onlay to the tooth, followed by the same polishing of the inlay or onlay.

How to know which one applies to you

Our expert dentists will determine what type of inlay or onlay is necessary for your unique situation depending on how much of the tooth remains. For both an inlay and an onlay, gold is typically used, as it is the most long-lasting and hard-wearing filling material. Using gold has many advantages, as it will not tarnish and has immense strength. The only downside to having a gold inlay or onlay is that the gold filling is made within a laboratory, so the indirect method will need to be utilized.

Receiving an inlay or onlay is necessary when a person is missing more than half of the tooth, or if more than half of the tooth is decayed. There are many benefits to receiving an inlay or onlay when compared to traditional metal fillings. First, they are more durable and typically last up to thirty years. Second, they help to add strength to the tooth by up to seventy-five percent, while metal fillings only strengthen the tooth by about fifty percent. Lastly, both inlays and onlays increase the lifespan of the tooth and prevent the need for additional dental treatment in the future.

In order to maintain and take care of the patient’s inlay or onlay, the patient will need to brush and floss on a consistent basis as well as have regular visits to the dentist.

Contact the experts at  Samaritan Dental Arts today to book an appointment with one of our specialists if you need help filling a cavity or other tooth issue, or if you’d just like to discuss your options.

  Dr. Alan Zabolian is a proud member of  
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