Onlays and inlays are a simple solution.

No two cavities are the same. While fillings and crowns might be the right treatment for some issues arising from tooth decay, there are times where there are in-between cases. These are situations when the decay is, unfortunately, too severe for a filling but, thankfully, not severe enough that a crown is needed. This is where dental inlays and onlays come into play, to provide relief from chewing pain, cavity pain, and tooth degeneration.

Inlays and onlays are a wonderful option that help restore a tooth to its natural strength. Not only do they look natural and preserve a large amount of the natural tooth, but they also help mitigate further tooth decay by covering up bumpy surfaces or cracks.

Unlike fillings, which involve a decayed portion of a tooth being drilled out and filled with a composite resin, both inlays and onlays are single pieces of solid porcelain. When tooth decay is removed, there is a gap that is created. Inlays and onlays fill that gap.

So, what are crowns for?

Crowns are used in cases of more extreme decay or in situations where a tooth is severely cracked or broken. You can think of a crown as less of a repair and more of a replacement. When getting a crown, the decayed area is removed and a cap is placed over the entire tooth.

Inlays and onlays, though, can be thought of as more of a repair. As mentioned, there are cases when the damage to a tooth is to the point that a large dental filling would weaken the tooth’s overall structure, but the tooth is still healthy enough to not need a dental crown. It is in cases like these where inlays and onlays might be the solution for you.

What is the difference between an inlay and an onlay?

In the past, inlays and onlays were made out of metal, such as gold. Nowadays, porcelain-milled inlays and onlays are more commonly used and are virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth, providing an aesthetic component to the solution they provide.

An inlay is a single, solid piece made of porcelain that is fitted within the cleaned-out cavity of a tooth. Inlays do not go up and over the cusps, or raised points, of a tooth. When damage extends to the cups of a tooth, onlays are used, which are generally larger to cover more surface area.

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

The procedure for getting inlays and onlays is a simple one. Commonly, inlays and onlays require two visits, though we also offer same-appointment onlays.

First, a local anesthetic is used to numb the area before any decayed or damaged areas of your tooth are drilled out and removed. Generally, inlays and onlays preserve more of your natural tooth than dental fillings or crowns, as less drilling is required for the treatment. Because of this, inlays and onlays are considered conservative treatments in contrast to crowns, which are more “invasive.”

Once the damaged area is removed, your tooth is cleaned in preparation for the inlay or onlay you will be receiving. The next step is ensuring a perfect fit for your new inlay or onlay. For this, impressions are taken to ensure the customized onlay or inlay fits you perfectly.

In cases where the inlay or onlay is made at an external lab, you will be given a temporary one while you wait for your custom one to be ready. Once it is complete, you come back in, and your new inlay or onlay will be bonded to your teeth and polished smooth.

There might be a little discomfort upon receiving it. You may feel numbness until the local anesthetic wears off, and you may also experience tender gums or increased tooth sensitivity. Should you need it, over-the-counter pain management solutions, such as ibuprofen, are good options if you are experiencing any discomfort. It is also important, following your procedure, to avoid particularly hard or sticky foods and hot and cold beverages.

Your New Inlays and Onlays

Just because you have new inlays or onlays doesn’t mean your lifestyle has to change. Caring for your new inlays and onlays is no different than proper care for your natural teeth. You should brush and floss at least twice each day, and make sure to schedule regular visits to your dentist once or twice a year for your standard checkups and cleanings and to check in on your brand new inlays or onlays.

Not only do inlays and onlays last longer than conventional fillings, but they also allow for 50% to 70% greater chewing pressure to be applied to your teeth. They look more like your natural tooth color, and they provide a better seal over cavities. There are few drawbacks to inlays and onlays other than them being slightly more expensive than fillings.

While inlays and onlays are sturdy, they are susceptible to general wear and tear and may need to be replaced over time; however, it is common for an inlay or onlay to last an upwards of 30 years.

Give us a call if you think you might benefit from an inlay or onlay or if you have more questions!

The team at Tory Hilly Dentist is eager to help. It is our goal to help you maintain your dental health and help you achieve the smile of your dreams. When you’re ready to schedule your appointment with Dr. Fenn, you can either give the Tory Hill Dental office a call or use our online Request An Appointment form.