Restore your oral health with inlays and onlays.

In the world of restorative dentistry, there are several important treatments to understand. If your dentist notices a cavity at your visit, they might recommend a conventional filling. Or, you might be better suited for  dental inlays or onlays.

Unsure what these terms mean? Today, we’re taking a closer look at the differences between onlays, inlays, and fillings so you know exactly what to expect.

What is an inlay?

Left untreated, cavities and tooth decay can continue to eat away at your teeth and gums. That’s why it’s best to visit your dentist at the very first sign of an issue. If your dentist confirms that you indeed have a cavity, there are several different types of dental fillings that can serve as a solution. A dental inlay is one of them.

A dental inlay is a special type of filling that your dentist will use when your cavity is too large for a simple, conventional filling. The inlay will be made of a single, solid piece of porcelain designed to mimic the exact look and shape of your natural tooth.

Your dentist will form the inlay to your specific requirements, and then cement it in place. Dental inlays are made to fill the area between the cusps of your tooth.

What is an onlay?

A dental onlay sits somewhere between a dental inlay and a crown. Your dentist will recommend one when your degree of tooth decay exceeds the span an inlay can correct, but isn’t so severe that a crown is needed.

Like an inlay, an onlay is also crafted from a single, solid piece of porcelain and requires the same fitting process. The main difference, however, is that an onlay is designed to cover a cusp of your tooth, rather than fitting between it.

What issues do inlays and onlays treat?

Both dental inlays and dental onlays are restorative dentistry treatments meant to correct instances of serious tooth damage or tooth decay. Your dentist will recommend them when your damage or decay is too severe for a conventional filling to adequately treat.

You might also be a strong candidate for this form of treatment if you are suffering from chewing pain or tooth degeneration. In these cases, the amount of tooth structure that must be removed to provide relief would be too significant for a filling to cover. An inlay or onlay can successfully fill in the space left behind when a portion of your tooth is removed.

How do they differ from fillings?

A conventional filling is one of the most basic forms of dental restoration. When you visit your dentist for this type of treatment, they will drill out the decayed structure from your tooth and replace it with a type of filling material.

In years past, these fillings were made of metal. However, thanks to modern advancements in dental technology, dentists will now use light-colored composite fillings that look more natural than ever before.

Inlays and onlays differ from conventional fillings in a few key ways. In all instances, your dentist will remove your tooth decay with a drill and fill in that space so there is no longer a hole there. Yet, that is where the similarities stop. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways these treatments vary from one another.

Degree of Decay

As mentioned, fillings are reserved for minor instances of tooth-related damage or decay. Inlays are the step up, and fit between the cusps of your teeth. If the issue is more widespread, an onlay may be required.

Treatment Time

Conventional fillings can usually be completed in a single visit. Yet, inlays and onlays require a custom-fitted piece of porcelain. Usually, this is fabricated in an off-site laboratory, though some dentist offices can make them on-site.

For this reason, treatment times are usually longer with inlays and onlays than with fillings. At your first visit, your dentist will clear away any existing filling, thoroughly clean your tooth, and take an impression of your teeth. This impression will be used as a template to create an inlay or onlay that is medically precise.

Then, they’ll place a temporary sealant on your tooth to protect it in the short-term. At your next appointment, your dentist will remove the sealant, clean your tooth, ensure the inlay or onlay fits properly, and secure it in place.

The process might be a little longer, but it’s worth the wait.

Leaving even a tiny amount of space around your inlay or onlay could allow food and bacteria to enter, which could worsen existing decay. Once in place, however, inlays and onlays are less susceptible to contracting (such as with temperature changes) over time, which makes them especially secure.

Under what circumstances would you receive an inlay vs. an onlay?

An inlay is reserved for tooth decay that is too large for a conventional filling to cover, but not large enough to require an onlay or a crown. Your dentist will recommend an onlay when a filling or inlay cannot cover the extent of your single-tooth damage or decay. This form of restorative dentistry is used when greater reconstruction is required.

Discover our dental services today.

Are you seeking relief from cavity pain? Ready to chew more comfortably or take a proactive approach to tooth degeneration? In any case, inlays and onlays are two viable solutions that could offer a world of help.

To learn more about these forms of treatment, as well as the rest of our restorative, cosmetic and general dentistry services, we encourage you to reach out to our team. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!