Inlays and onlays are used to fill the space left by old fillings that have been removed. They are also used when decay is too extensive for a filling, but not enough for a dental crown. Dr. Richard C. Ribeiro can place an inlay, which fits inside the cusps of the tooth, or an onlay, which extends over one or more cusp, depending on your unique needs. Dr. Ribeiro uses inlays and onlays whenever possible at our Clarksville, TN, practice, as they preserve more of the healthy tooth structure than dental crowns.
Inlays and Onlays: What’s the Difference?
Inlays and onlays are both customizable restorations. Both are used when fillings are insufficient but dental crowns are unnecessary. The primary difference is the part of the tooth they restore. Inlays are used to repair the damaged chewing surfaces of the tooth, or the indented spaces between the cusps (the raised edges of a tooth). Onlays are used to repair the cusps themselves, and may extend down the side.
Placement of Inlays and Onlays
The placement process for an inlay or onlay is more similar to that of a crown than a filling. With fillings, no impressions are needed, since the material simply fills the missing spaces of the tooth. Inlays are onlays are crafted from porcelain and other materials, so they require exact impressions and placement, just like dental crowns. In fact, they are sometimes called partial crowns.
To begin the process, Dr. Ribeiro will administer a local anesthetic to the tooth and surrounding gums to ensure your comfort. Then, he will either remove the old, damaged filling or remove the decayed portions of your tooth. After cleaning and disinfecting the tooth, he will take impressions for the creation of your inlay or onlay.
Depending on the material used for your restoration, Dr. Ribeiro may be able to design and place your inlay or onlay in the same visit. In other cases, he may need to send the impressions to a lab where a technician will create your restoration. In either case, once the restoration is ready, he will cement it in place.
Benefits of Inlays and Onlays
Inlays and onlays are completely customizable, so they fit into or onto your damaged tooth like a puzzle piece. Unlike dental crowns, which require removal of some of the healthy tooth structure, these restorations leave a larger portion of your healthy tooth intact. This strengthens rather than weakens the tooth structure and is better for your oral health.
With the use of durable materials and proper care, you can expect your inlay or onlay to last up to 20 years or more. These restorations repair the structure of your tooth and restore full functionality while also protecting the tooth from additional damage. By using tooth-colored options like porcelain, your smile is not only stronger, but it remains just as beautiful as ever.