When teeth are suffering from only mild decay, or when old or damaged metal fillings need replacement, many dentists are now turning to inlays and onlays to meet their patient’s needs. Inlays and onlays are dental restoratives intended to address a mild to moderate amount of decay in the cusps of the teeth. Inlays are placed in the indented surfaces along the top of the teeth and can be made from porcelain materials colored to match the natural coloration of the tooth, or they are even available in gold.
Onlays are intended to provide restoration to the areas between the cusps of the damaged or decayed tooth, and these too are created from the same materials, which can make them virtually undetectable with the naked eye. Onlays are frequently chosen to eliminate the need to remove large amounts of tooth tissue, and they can often be selected in place of dental crowns or to avoid the eventual need for a dental implant. There are many benefits to those who decide to use inlays and onlays, first they are usually made of tooth colored materials and are therefore undetectable and aesthetically pleasing. Second, they are unlike any filling material in that they do not expand or contract when exposed to cold or heat. This supports the overall structure of the teeth. Additionally, the application of either treatment means the preservation of a great deal of tooth tissue, unlike many other restorative measures which demand removal of tooth pulp and tooth shaping in order to effectively apply.
Inlays and onlays are generally guaranteed to last a long period of time, with an average lifespan of thirty or more years. This too is unlike many restorative measures which require replacement or which may come loose due to expansion and contraction during exposure to temperatures or to events such as teeth grinding. Many patients suffering from a cavity between their teeth will often have an inlay recommended to them rather than a composite or amalgam filling, as they are better at completely sealing the tooth in such a tight and difficult to clean area. In addition to their many other beneficial properties, inlays and onlays provide an enormous amount of strength and stability to the tooth they have been applied to. Their custom fit, durable materials and resistance to the normal conditions within the mouth make them the ideal choice for severely weakened or damaged teeth. Most inlays and onlays will be created by taking a mold of the problem tooth from which a gold, porcelain or resin inlay or onlay is fabricated. The choice in material usually depends upon the area in the mouth, for example gold is recommended for molars at the back of the mouth as it is incredibly durable and strong and offers resistance to grinding and wear and tear. For inlays and onlays at the front the more natural colored porcelains and resins are suggested. Once the item is returned from the laboratory the dentist fits it into the mouth of the patient and then ensures that the bite is comfortable before sealing and polishing the inlay or onlay.