Inlays and Onlays
Dental inlays and onlays are gold, composite, or porcelain materials used to repair moderately damaged or decayed teeth. Dentists use dental inlays and onlays to restore a tooth that is too damaged to repair with a filling but not damaged enough to need a crown. Dental inlays and onlays save the healthy portion of an injured tooth and provide strength and stability for normal chewing.
Types of dental inlays and onlays
Dental inlays and onlays can be made of the following materials:
- Composites (resins) include powdered glass-like material and acrylics. Composite inlays and onlays are more cosmetically pleasing than metal because they match the tooth’s color.
- Metal, typically gold, but other metals may be used as well. Dentists may use metal inlays or onlays in back teeth, or molars, because of metal’s strength and durability. Today, gold is used less often than in the past because it is less cosmetically pleasing than other types of inlays and onlays.
- Porcelain matches the tooth’s color.
Your dentist may recommend a dental inlay or onlay for conditions including:
- Cracked or chipped teeth that cannot be repaired with a dental filling but do not require more extensive procedures to repair, such as a root canal and/or dental crown.
- Tooth decay (cavities, dental caries) that occurs when bacteria in your mouth produce an acid that damages the teeth. Dentists can often repair minor to moderate decay with a dental filing. Moderate to severe or deep decay may require a dental inlay or onlay or crown to save the function of the tooth.
What Advantages Do Inlays And Onlays Offer?
They offer several good benefits:
They’re made of dental porcelain rather than metal. This means they match your natural tooth color and cannot be distinguished as fillings. They look like part of the tooth.
They are bonded to the tooth. In other words, they are structurally united with the tooth by means of a light-cured dental cement. This again makes them part of the tooth, not a separate entity packed into the tooth, like the old metal fillings.
Being bonded to the tooth, they strengthen it. They apply an inward force, pulling on the tooth’s periphery, holding the tooth together. In contrast, metal fillings apply an outward force, pushing against the tooth’s periphery, and thus weakening the tooth.
They are hard and durable. With good daily care, they will prolong the tooth’s life indefinitely.
Are There Any Disadvantages To Inlays And Onlays?
No, unless you feel that two visits instead of just one is a disadvantage. They are what is known as indirect fillings, meaning that the doctor does not apply the porcelain directly to your teeth as he does with white composite, or as other dentists do with metal amalgam. Instead, he has them made to his specifications at a lab. The lab takes a week or two to get the finished inlay or onlay back to the doctor, so you need to come in for a second visit. He’ll then seat the inlay or onlay and permanently bond it to the tooth.