Inlays and onlays are restorations that repair damaged teeth. They are considered a more conservative approach to full-coverage crowns, which are also used to reconstruct damaged teeth. Unlike crowns, inlays and onlays do not require significantly filing down the tooth structure. Inlays and onlays simply fit into the space left after damaged or diseased tooth structure has been removed. You can think of them as treating only tooth decay as opposed to the entire tooth. Inlays and onlays are created in an outside dental laboratory and are virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the tooth structure.
Not only do inlays and onlays look great, but they are also better for the health and longevity of the tooth. Removing too much healthy tooth structure can cause a tooth to wear down sooner and make it susceptible to fracture. The conservative approach of placing an inlay or onlay may also help prevent tooth pain that sometimes accompanies the removal of a large amount of tooth structure.
When Are Inlays and Onlays Used?
Inlays and onlays are generally used when a tooth has a large amount of decay as compared to the rest of the tooth structure — that is, too much decay to successfully treat it using a dental filling. Inlays and onlays can also be used to replace an older dental filling.
Inlays fit inside the top points or “cusps” of the chewing surface, and onlays are more extensive, covering one or more of the cusps.
Inlays and Onlays Treatment Details
The process of getting an inlay or onlay generally takes about two appointments, as it involves using an outside dental laboratory to construct the restoration.
First Dental Appointment
During the first appointment, Dr. Porter removes damaged/diseased tooth structure or the old filling. He cleans the tooth and prepares it to receive the restoration. Impressions are taken of the affected tooth to send to the lab that creates the inlay or onlay. The color of the restoration is also selected to match the surrounding tooth structure and nearby teeth. Dr. Porter can place a temporary restoration to cover the prepared tooth until the next appointment.
Second Dental Appointment
Once the inlay or onlay is ready, the second appointment takes place. Dr. Porter cements the restoration into place and checks for fit. The restoration can be adjusted as needed to achieve a natural, even appearance and a good bite. Finally, Dr. Porter polishes the inlay or onlay so it gleams like natural tooth structure.
Inlay & Onlay Recovery
There may be a slight adjustment period as you get used to the way the inlay or onlay feels; however, it should not take more than a few days.
Teeth restored with inlays and onlays should be cared for like natural teeth, meaning brushed and flossed every day. They should also be checked by a dentist every six months to ensure there is no damage.
Schedule a Dental Consultation
If you have areas of tooth decay that could be restored with inlays or onlays, Dr. Lance Porter can help. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Porter to discuss these and other restorative dentistry solutions. You can make an appointment by calling 501-624-2778 or emailing our office today.