Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and Onlays
20 June 2019 Articles cosmetic dentistry
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If you have decayed or cracked tooth but it is not as extensive that need to a full dental crown, inlays, and onlays are the best options for you that reserve your natural tooth structure. Inlays and onlays are restorative techniques that repair rear teeth which have a small amount of tooth structure with mild to moderate decay or crack and fracture.

Both inlays and onlays consider as an indirect filling because, in contrast to dental filling that applied directly in the mouth, inlays or onlays prepared in the dental lab then fix to the tooth. Generally, inlay fits within the little points or cusps of a premolar or moral (back) tooth but onlays cover one or more of these cusps.

Dental inlays

Dental inlays

It is made of tooth-colored material like ceramic/porcelain or dental composite that fill the space. Dental inlays make in the dental lab exactly to the size and shape of empty space. If inlays don’t match exactly to the size and shape of the space, so food and bacteria will enter the space and lead to the decay.

Dental onlays

Dental onlays

Same as inlay, dental onlay also made of tooth-colored material such as ceramic /porcelain or dental composite. The difference between onlay and inlay is that an inlay fills the space between cusp while onlays cover a cusp.

Inlays and onlays placement

The whole procedure applies in two appointments. During the first session, your doctor removes the decay and clean your tooth. When your doctor prepares your tooth, he/she takes an impression of your tooth and send to the dental lab.

In the second appointment, your custom-made inlay or onlay will place and cement in place. Your dentist will check to make sure that it fits in the place and you are comfortable with your inlay or onlay.

Pros and Cons of inlays and onlays

Same as any other dental procedure, there are some advantages and disadvantages with inlay and onlay. The common benefits of inlays and onlays include:

  • Inlays and onlays provide stronger protection for your teeth compare to filling.
  • There is a variety of color for inlays and onlays that can exactly match the color of your natural teeth.
  • Because of the complex design of the inlay and onlay and as they are customized fit, there is less bacterial leakage compare to regular filling.
  • Since they are specifically designed for your tooth, they don’t cause plaque creation like filling and they are easier to keep clean as well.
  • Generally, inlays and onlays are more durable than traditional filling if you care for them properly and do all the dental checkups. They are less sensitive especially if any damage occurs close to the nerve of the teeth.

Following are disadvantages of dental inlays and onlays:

  • Since inlays and onlays are custom-made products and need to be prepared in a dental lab, so they are expensive.
  • The procedure applied in two appointments, so it may be time-consuming.
  • There is a risk of wearing the opposing natural tooth by inlay and onlay, especially if the glaze is removed when the dentist modifies the bite.
  • Inlays and onlays can fail, it means they can come off although they can re-bond. On the other hand, there is still the risk of decay with inlay and onlay if there is a problem with the fit or you don’t care them properly.

Inlays and onlays can last 5 to 10 years depending on different factors such as oral hygiene and type of inlay and onlay that can bear a lot of wearing and tearing. But the most important item that affects the duration of your inlays and onlays is proper care. You need to do regular brushing and flossing, avoid habits such as clenching and grinding your teeth. People who use grinding teeth while sleeping should consult with their doctor for finding a solution.



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