Teeth are remarkably strong, but occasionally, they can be damaged. If they are not cleaned properly with good brushing and flossing habits, they may become affected by tooth decay in the form of cavities. Additionally, teeth can become damaged as a result of trauma or injury. Cavities are usually treated with a filling, and more serious damage or decay may require a crown. Sometimes, however, the damage is not serious enough to need a crown, but is too large for a filling to fix. In these cases, dental inlays or onlays can be the solution. Your dentist can assess the damage and make the best recommendation for you. Both of these restorations are custom-made to be bonded to the affected tooth (or teeth) to effectively treat a damaged tooth and restore its functionality and appearance.
Benefits to inlays and onlays
Both restorations provide several benefits.
- Preserve more of the natural tooth (dental crowns require them to be filed down a portion)
- Look natural
- Strengthen the structure of the tooth
- Are durable and withstand forces well
Dental inlays are used when the damage to the tooth occurs between the cusp tips in the center of the tooth. They were previously made of gold, but today, they can be made of tooth-colored materials such as ceramic, porcelain, or composite to produce a more natural-looking appearance. To have one placed, the decay will first be removed from the tooth, which will then be cleaned. An impression will be taken and sent to a dental lab where the inlay will be custom-made. A temporary covering will be placed on the prepared tooth to keep it protected until the inlay is completed. During a separate appointment, the completed inlay will be bonded to the prepared tooth.
Onlays are used when the cusp (the edge) of a tooth is damaged, or if multiple teeth are affected. The process for placing onlays is the same as for an inlay, with the tooth having damage and decay removed and having an impression taken.
If you have sustained damage to one or more teeth, contact us to see if an inlay or onlay is the treatment for you.