Sometimes when a back tooth has become decayed, the damage may not be severe enough to require a full crown but needs a little more than a routine filling. That’s when your dentist may recommend a dental inlay or onlay.
Unlike fillings that are typically made of amalgam, inlays and onlays are usually made of composite resin or porcelain, and sometimes gold. The main difference between the two? Dental inlays are used when the damage is limited to the center of the tooth, while with onlays the damage may extend to the exterior part of the tooth – in the case of cracks, for example – or to the cusps, the very peaks of the back teeth.
The procedure is roughly the same for both inlays and onlays. The dentist will first remove all decayed parts of the tooth then he or she will create a mold of the tooth. Then, a prosthetic tooth part will be created with the filler material and finally it will be placed in the tooth and bonded to it. The entire process could take two separate visits.
There are several advantages to inlays and onlays versus full crowns. They last a long time, anywhere from 30 years to a lifetime, assuming proper care. They are also more aesthetically desirable; typically, they cannot be detected unless with close-up view. Inlays and onlays preserve more of the healthy part of the tooth and they are very effective in preventing further decay.
It’s important to note that inlays and onlays are often considered a cosmetic procedure since many patients seek them to replace less attractive silver fillings. If this is the case, dental insurance may not always cover the replacement costs.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Mitul Patel
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