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Dental inlays and onlays explained

Dental inlays and onlays explained

Inlays and onlays: find out everything you need to know about this type of dental restoration, from how the procedure is carried out, its advantages and disadvantages, to the different kinds of inlays and onlays materials available and their differences.

What are dental inlays and onlays?

Inlays and onlays are dental restorations that are used to repair teeth that have mild to moderate decay or damage. They are a type of indirect restoration, meaning that they are fabricated outside of the mouth and then bonded to the tooth. Inlays and onlays can be made from a variety of materials, including porcelain, composite resin and gold.

  • An inlay is a restoration that is placed within the cusps (the bumps on the biting surface) of a tooth. It is used to repair a tooth that has decay or damage that is too large for a filling, but not large enough to require a crown.
  • An onlay, on the other hand, is a restoration that covers one or more cusps of a tooth. It is used to repair a tooth that has more extensive decay or damage than can be repaired with an inlay, but still has enough healthy tooth structure to avoid the need for a crown.

Inlays and onlays are typically recommended for teeth that have moderate to severe decay or damage but still have enough healthy tooth structure to avoid the need for a crown. They can be used to repair teeth that have been damaged by cavities, fractures or other types of trauma. Inlays and onlays are also a good option for teeth that have been previously restored with a filling but have become worn or damaged over time.

The process of placing an inlay or onlay usually involves two dental visits. During the first visit, your dentist will prepare the tooth by removing any decay or damage and taking an impression of the tooth. This impression will be used to create a custom-made inlay or onlay that will fit precisely into the prepared area. In some cases, a temporary restoration may be placed to protect the tooth while the permanent restoration is being fabricated.

At the second visit, the temporary restoration will be removed and the permanent inlay or onlay will be bonded to the tooth using a special dental adhesive. The restoration will be polished and adjusted to ensure a comfortable fit and a natural appearance.

Different types of inlays and onlays

One of the main advantages of inlays and onlays is that they can be made from a variety of materials, including porcelain, composite resin and gold.

Porcelain inlays and onlays

Porcelain inlays and onlays are the most common type of indirect restoration used to repair damaged teeth. They are made of a high-quality dental ceramic material that is durable and long-lasting. Porcelain inlays and onlays are custom-made to fit the exact shape and size of the prepared tooth, and they can be matched to the colour of the natural teeth for a seamless appearance. Porcelain inlays and onlays are ideal for repairing teeth in the front of the mouth where aesthetics are a concern.

Composite resin inlays and onlays

Composite resin inlays and onlays are made of a tooth-coloured resin material that is bonded to the tooth. They are a popular choice because they can be completed in a single dental visit and are less expensive than porcelain restorations. Composite resin inlays and onlays are not as strong or durable as porcelain, and they may not last as long. They are usually recommended for repairing teeth in the back of the mouth where aesthetics are less of a concern.

Gold inlays and onlays

Gold inlays and onlays are made of a high-quality dental gold alloy that is strong, durable and long-lasting. Gold restorations have been used in dentistry for many years and have a proven track record of success. Gold inlays and onlays are less common than porcelain or composite resin restorations, but they are still used in some cases where strength and durability are a primary concern.

Ceramic inlays and onlays

Ceramic inlays and onlays are similar to porcelain restorations, but they are made of a different type of dental ceramic material that is even more durable and long-lasting. Ceramic inlays and onlays are usually recommended for repairing teeth that have been severely damaged or that are under high chewing forces.

Pros and cons of inlays and onlays

Pros:

  • Inlays and onlays can be used to repair teeth that would otherwise require a more extensive restoration, such as a crown.
  • They are custom-made to fit the shape and contours of the tooth, which can help to restore the tooth’s natural appearance and function.
  • They can be made from a variety of materials, including porcelain and composite resin, which can be matched to the colour of the natural teeth.
  • They are strong and durable, and can last for many years with proper care.

Cons:

  • The process of placing an inlay or onlay requires at least two dental visits.
  • Inlays and onlays can be more expensive than fillings, but less expensive than crowns.
  • In some cases, the tooth may need to be prepared more extensively to accommodate the inlay or onlay, which can lead to increased sensitivity

Overall, inlays and onlays are an effective and versatile treatment option for repairing damaged or decayed teeth. The dentist will evaluate your specific dental needs and help you determine if an inlay or onlay is the right treatment option for you.

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