What Are Dental Inlays and Onlays?

Dental inlays and onlays
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Tooth decay can certainly be an unpleasant and painful experience. If you don’t prioritize your oral hygiene on a daily basis, your teeth can become home to several plaque-causing bacteria. If the bacterial buildup continues over time, it can cause infection, and your tooth or teeth may begin to undergo decay. Tooth decay can cause cavities that should be treated immediately before they are allowed to get worse. The type of treatment used usually depends on the severity of the cavity and involves the removal of the decayed portion of the tooth using a special drill. Once the decay has been removed, the hole is filled in using a filling that can be made of several materials, including porcelain, gold, or silver alloy.

In dentistry, inlays and onlays are also referred to as fillings and serve as a form of indirect restoration for your teeth. Inlays and onlays are made outside of the mouth into a single, solid piece that is shaped to fit the specific size of the cavity. This indirect restoration is then cemented into its specific place inside of your mouth and replaces the tooth structure that has been lost to decay.

Dental Inlays and Onlays

Damage to a tooth resulting from decay may be too extensive to be treated using a simple filling, but also may not require a crown offering full coverage. In these situations, inlays and onlays may be the best option to restore a tooth. Inlays and onlays are referred to as indirect fillings because they are created outside of the mouth at a dental laboratory. This is unlike a direct filling, which uses a material applied directly to the cavity in your tooth. Although inlays and onlays vary slightly, the placement process is the same for both.

  • Inlays. Indirect fillings are considered inlays when they fit inside of the points or cusps of a premolar or molar tooth and serve the purpose of a filling after a cavity has been removed. Inlays are now available in tooth-coloured materials including ceramic, porcelain, or other special dental composites. Inlays can be an excellent way to replace defective fillings that may stand out in your mouth. Tooth-coloured inlays can be bonded to the tooth, and this bonding process helps seal the inlay to the tooth and improve its overall strength.
  • Onlays. An onlay is an indirect filling, which covers one or more of the cusps of the back teeth in your mouth. Onlays are also specifically designed to fit inside of your tooth, but cover more of the chewing surface of the back teeth to help replace one or more of the cusps. Traditional onlays were made of gold and were clearly visible for this reason. However, similar to inlays, onlays are now being created using tooth-coloured materials such as ceramic or porcelain. Just like inlays, these indirect fillings are bonded to the tooth and this bonding process improves the overall strength of the tooth.

What is the process of getting an inlay or an onlay?

The process of placing an inlay or an onlay is similar to placing a crown, with the main difference being that more of your natural tooth remains intact when an inlay or onlay is placed. Before a crown can be placed on your tooth, a certain amount of the tooth structure needs to be removed by drilling and the tooth must undergo a significant amount of reshaping. In order for a crown to be fitted, it must be prepared for its new covering and this entails significant removal of tooth structure. The overall goal of most dental restoration procedures is to preserve as much of the natural tooth structure as possible, which is why inlays and onlays are recommended instead of crowns if the damage isn’t too extensive. The placement procedure of an inlay or onlay is as follows:

  1. Numbing. An anesthetic is applied to numb the tooth and the surrounding area.
  2. Decay Removal. The decayed portion of the tooth is removed to prevent the infection from progressing into deeper layers of the tooth.
  3. Creating an Impression. Once the decayed portion of the tooth has been removed, the tooth is reshaped and prepared for an impression to be made. The impression can be made digitally or using a putty material, which is then sent to a dental laboratory to construct a model of your tooth so that an inlay or onlay can be created. The inlay or onlay is then constructed using gold or tooth-coloured ceramics.
  4. Temporary Filling. During this first visit to the dentist, you will be fitted with a temporary filling once the decayed portion of your tooth is removed. This is until your permanent restoration is completed.
  5. Placing Your Inlay/Onlay. Once the dental laboratory has completed your inlay or onlay, it will be sent back to your dental office. When you come in for your second appointment, your inlay or onlay will be attached to your tooth using a resin that is then exposed to a special type of light that causes the resin to harden. Alternatively, a special type of permanent cement may be used to help bond the inlay or onlay to your tooth.

Inlays and Onlays: Aftercare

Inlays and onlays are an excellent alternative to dental crowns. They provide a long-lasting filling for your teeth and give them the strength they need. Inlays and onlays do not require any more specific care than what is normally required on a daily basis. Practising good dental hygiene is the key to maintaining the health of your teeth and avoiding tooth decay. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing, regular dental check-ups, and avoiding excessive amounts of sugary foods and drinks is the best way to maintain good oral hygiene so you won’t acquire a cavity at all, or to avoid further damage to your teeth. With the right care, your dental restoration could last you a lifetime.

If you require a dental restoration, inlays and/or onlays may be just what you need. Porcelain or ceramic inlays and onlays can provide you with a very natural-looking restoration that is both durable and stain-resistant. Here at Bristol Dental Clinic, our team of highly trained professionals can help you remove your dental damage and decay, and seal your tooth using inlays or onlays. Our team is dedicated to providing you with quality care for lasting results and assisting you to maintain good oral health for life. Call Bristol Dental Clinic today at 905-712-3409 to book your appointment or visit our website here to learn more about us.

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