Dental inlays and onlays might become your tooth’s new best friend.

No two cavities are the same. That also means that the solution for fixing your cavity might not be what you expect.

Minor cavities can usually be resolved with a filling, while major tooth decay can be addressed with a dental crown. What about those cavities that are neither mild nor severe? Meet dental inlays and onlays, potentially your tooth’s new best friend.

In this post, we’re taking a closer look at how each treatment works and what you can expect when you visit our office.

Dental Inlays vs. Onlays vs. Traditional Fillings

A cavity doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, but it can quickly grow into something that impacts your quality of life or even confidence. That’s especially true for a cavity that’s visible when you smile. But don’t fret. There are options that will only enhance the beauty of your smile while also preventing serious issues such as more damage to your teeth and infection.

Modern fillings are more discreet than ever before, as well as longer-lasting and more attractive. Let’s take a look at your options.

Traditional Fillings

Traditional fillings are the most basic form of restorative dentistry. With this procedure, your dentist will remove the decayed portion of your tooth structure. In its place, they will add a composite resin designed to mimic the look and function of your existing tooth. And you’ll be set for many years to come as long as you continue to take care of your teeth.

This is the perfect answer to a small cavity.

Dental Inlays

Your dentist may suggest a dental inlay if your degree of tooth decay is too large for a simple, traditional filling.

The inlay will be fabricated as a single, solid piece of ceramic porcelain that fits the exact size and shape of your cavity. Your dentist will secure the inlay in place with special dental cement.

Years ago, fillings, inlays and onlays were all made of metal. However, today’s versions are made with porcelain, which delivers the following benefits to patients:

  • Virtually unnoticeable
  • Durable
  • Long-lasting
  • Wear-resistant

Dental Onlays

A dental onlay is a step between a dental inlay and a dental crown.

This treatment is usually larger-scale than an inlay, and reserved for patients who need single-tooth restorations. It’s also best-suited for larger areas of tooth decay that will not respond as well to a traditional filling or an inlay due to the fact that so much of the surrounding tooth structure must be removed.

Onlays get their name from the fact that they’re designed to cover an outer cusp of your tooth rather than just the area between the cusps. As with an inlay, a dental onlay is a single, solid piece of porcelain.

What to Expect

Dental inlays and onlays share many similarities. For instance, both procedures require the removal of decay from your tooth. Then any of the three treatments fill that area effectively sealing your tooth off from further decay. The primary difference lies in how these spaces are filled.

With a traditional filling, your dentist will use a composite material to fill the space where your cavity was. This is a quick process that usually only requires a single visit to your dentist’s office. However, inlays and onlays require an extra step.

The Dental Inlay Process

If you need a dental inlay, your dentist will fill the space of your former cavity with a single, solid piece of porcelain. Usually, this material is fabricated in an off-site laboratory.

Why is the custom design process necessary? A dental inlay must be tailor-made to fit the exact shape and size of the empty space in your tooth. If there is even a slight gap, food and bacteria can easily enter that space, leading to new or worsened decay. While this step can be a little laborious, it’s well worth it.

Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

Due to their firm foundation of porcelain, inlays are tough, rugged dental restorations. This durability means that normal chewing will not break them down or cause them to shift position.

Another benefit of inlays and onlays? Their porcelain material is more attractive and natural-looking than the composite material used to create traditional fillings.

Who is the best candidate for these treatments?

A great candidate for a dental inlay would be someone who has a greater degree of tooth decay than a traditional filling can support.

Another qualifying factor? To be eligible for an inlay or onlay, there should be enough of your remaining tooth structure present to adequately support the restoration.

Finally, you must also be committed to practicing excellent oral hygiene habits once you get home! To keep your inlay or onlay looking great and functioning well for years to come, it’s important to brush and floss daily and attend your regular preventative dentist visits.

We’ll see you soon.

If you have a cavity, the most important thing you can do is to seek treatment right away. Get in touch with us today to book an appointment!