When you need to repair a partially decayed, broken, or damaged tooth, dental inlays and onlays are often the ideal restorative dentistry solution. Inlays and onlays are the procedure that many dentists turn to when a tooth is damaged too greatly to support a regular tooth-colored filling but not damaged enough to warrant a porcelain crown. Custom-made and custom-shaped for your tooth, inlays and onlays prevent further decay or deterioration from occurring while stabilizing the surrounding tooth structure.
Dental inlays and onlays are the same kind of tooth restoration, but they are intended to cover different areas of the tooth. A dental inlay is similar to a filling in that it fits inside the center of the tooth without extending past the top edges of the tooth, known as the cusps. A dental onlay is larger than an inlay and covers more ground, extending over or replacing one or more of the cusps of the tooth being treated. Because they may even cover the entire biting surface of the tooth, dental onlays are sometimes referred to as “partial crowns.”
When an old filling needs to be replaced or removed, dental inlays and onlays are bonded in place to get the job done and create a completely natural look. Inlays and onlays are also used often in larger cavities or in areas where there is less tooth structure to work with. Inlays and onlays are intended to look, feel, and function just like natural teeth and have two major advantages: They are stain resistant and incredibly durable.
Porcelain crowns are an excellent restorative dentistry solution. They are durable, stable, and blend in beautifully with the rest of your smile while protecting and retaining your original tooth. However, there are some instances when it is unnecessary to cap a damaged tooth and risk removing more tooth structure than necessary. At the same time, though, you don’t always want to have a large dental filling put in place because that can weaken the remaining structure of the tooth and eventually cause the tooth to break or crack.
You don’t want to risk greater dental problems later on, and neither does your dentist. The best intermediate solution between a dental filling and a porcelain crown is an inlay or onlay. Dental onlays are very durable and are known to last longer than dental fillings. The size of the restoration and the material from which it is made – porcelain, composite, or gold – will, of course, impact the longevity of the onlay. And your aesthetic preference will impact your choice as well. Most people desire a natural-looking restoration so that no one even knows they had a restorative dentistry procedure.
Once your inlay or onlay is in place, it can last for decades if you take good care of your teeth and practice impeccable preventive care, including careful brushing and flossing and twice yearly visits to your dentist for a professional cleaning and exam.
Dental restorations in the form of dental onlays or inlays are available as two types: indirect or direct.
Indirect dental onlays or inlays: Indirect dental onlays are made off-site in a dental laboratory. Your dentist will prepare the tooth that is awaiting a restoration by removing any tooth decay, taking an impression of the tooth structure, then sending the impression away to a lab so the onlay can be crafted. This process will take several days to weeks to complete and your dentist will place a temporary filling in the tooth to preserve it and to make you comfortable. On your second dental visit, the temporary filling will be removed and the newly arrived onlay will be bonded in place.
Direct dental onlays or inlays: Direct onlays are made in a dental office with modern dental CEREC technology. The same preparation is done to the tooth needing the restoration, except in the direct dental onlay procedure the downtime that occurs when a restoration must be sent away and made in an off-site lab is eliminated. The 3D computer imagery employed by the CEREC system makes it possible for your dentist to produce a porcelain restoration on-site. Your dentist will take an image of your tooth, design the onlay or inlay, and create it while you wait. No impressions, temporary fillings, or second appointments are necessary, thanks to CEREC.
If you are ready to fix decayed teeth, repair damaged teeth that are chipped or cracked, fill gapped teeth, or whiten discolored or dull teeth, talk to Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez or Dr. Sharon Schmeiser in Miami, Florida, to determine if dental inlays or onlays are an appropriate smile makeover solution for you.