inlays and onlays

How Inlays and Onlays Can Save Your Damaged Teeth

Dental enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. Yet, what happens when it becomes compromised? Do we have options?

Indeed, there are methods to preserve a tooth affected by decay or damage. Inlays and onlays present a conservative approach to dental restorations that sustains your natural tooth structure while restoring function and appearance.

The Basics of Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays are custom-crafted dental restorations that provide a superior fit and aesthetic match to natural teeth. Unlike dental fillings that are molded during your visit, inlays and onlays are crafted in a dental laboratory before being securely fitted and bonded to the damaged area of your tooth. 

These indirect restorations are made from resilient materials such as porcelain, composite resin, or sometimes gold, selected for their durability and compatibility with tooth function. Inlays fit within a tooth’s cusps, or top projections, while onlays extend over one or more cusps, offering extensive coverage and structural integrity.

Defining Dental Inlays

Dental inlays are precision-engineered restorations custom-fitted within the confines of a tooth’s cusps. Dental inlays can recreate the tooth contour, conserving more natural tooth structure than traditional fillings.

Functionally exquisite and esthetically pleasing, inlays are fabricated to seamlessly integrate with the tooth’s natural anatomy, imbuing strength and restoring masticatory function.

Onlays: Coverage for Cusps

Onlays epitomize precision and durability. When a tooth’s damage extends beyond the confines of its cusps, the structural integrity is compromised. That’s when an onlay becomes the ideal solution. It restores the tooth and reinforces the damaged areas, particularly the cusps that withstand significant stress during chewing. Onlays are specifically designed to fortify these vulnerable points, ensuring the longevity of the restoration.

Onlays preserve a tooth’s natural structure. A damaged cusp undermines a tooth’s strength—onlays can remedy this. Like inlays, they cover not just the internal regions but extend to encompass the entire biting surface, including the cusps, providing comprehensive support and protection to the damaged tooth.

Onlays are synonymous with full-cusp recovery. When considering onlays, subtlety is the cornerstone of their integration. They seamlessly blend with the existing tooth, restoring function while maintaining the natural form and esthetics. Onlays are particularly advantageous for posterior teeth, which demand robust structural support, and their precise fit minimizes the risk of future decay or damage.

Onlays provide a custom solution to save teeth, preserving as much natural tooth structure as possible while reinforcing the compromised cusps. 

Inlays vs. Onlays: Understanding the Difference

In restorative dentistry, inlays and onlays are powerful tools against tooth decay, each serving different purposes and applications. Inlays fit neatly within the confines of a tooth’s cusps, repairing the center areas only. Onlays, by comparison, go one step further; they not only fill these central voids but also cover the tooth’s entire biting surface and extend over the cusps. This makes onlays the preferred choice to partial crowns, bridging the gap between a traditional filling and complete crown restoration, offering a more substantial rebuild of the tooth’s structure. Each provides a custom fit and aesthetic synergy with the natural tooth, yet their appropriateness is determined by the extent of the tooth’s damage.

Inlays: A Focused Approach

Inlays precisely target the damage within the tooth’s biting surface, preserving the tooth’s natural structure. Focusing on the inner contours, inlays meticulously repair areas deteriorated by decay or injury, ensuring the restoration is discrete and durable.

These conservative restorations are less invasive than crowns, maintaining more of your tooth’s integrity. They offer a robust solution for moderate decay that doesn’t affect the tooth’s cusps.

When a tooth’s damage is contained within the cusps, inlays are optimal for restoring form and function. By fitting into the prepared cavity like a puzzle piece, they fortify the tooth against further damage while retaining much of the natural tooth.

Creating an inlay involves precise impressions to ensure the restoration blends seamlessly with your existing tooth. Once the inlay is crafted from materials like porcelain or composite resin, it is bonded to the tooth. This reinforces the tooth’s structure and restores its original contour and occlusion. Inlays are considered a “conservative” approach compared to crowns because they require less natural tooth surface alteration.

When Onlays Are the Answer

Onlays are ideal restorations when a tooth’s damage exceeds the confines of simple fillings but is insufficient to warrant a full crown.

  1. Cusp Damage: When the tooth’s chewing surface, including one or more cusps, is compromised.
  2. Extensive Decay: If a tooth has decay that is too large for a filling yet not extensive enough for a crown.
  3. Fractured Teeth: Onlays can stabilize and protect teeth with large fractures that do not affect the root system.
  4. Desire to Preserve Tooth Structure: Patients prefer maintaining as much original tooth structure as possible.
  5. Long-Term durability Needed: In cases where a long-lasting solution is desired, onlays offer superior strength and longevity compared to traditional fillings. When these criteria align with your dental situation, onlays present a conservative yet effective treatment option.

Exquisitely crafted from porcelain or composite resin, onlays seamlessly integrate with your natural tooth structure, restoring both function and aesthetics.

Advantages of Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays distinguish themselves by offering a superb middle ground between basic fillings and extensive crowns. These restorations afford a high degree of preservation of your tooth’s structure, which is especially beneficial in maintaining long-term dental health. Additionally, because they are tailor-made, they ensure an optimal fit, mitigating the risk of future decay and discomfort.

Embracing the robustness of these indirect restorations, inlays, and onlays are renowned for their durability and longevity. Their resilience to chewing forces stands significantly above that of traditional fillings, often extending the life of a tooth for many years. Moreover, their precise fabrication through advanced dental technology contributes to a seamless bond with the tooth, enhancing strength and preventing bacterial invasion.

Preserving More Tooth Structure

Preserving tooth structure is paramount in dental restoration; both inlays and onlays excel at this.

  • Minimal Intervention: Unlike crowns, which often require extensive reshaping of the tooth, inlays and onlays fit into a tooth with minimal alteration.
  • Strength Preservation: The original tooth’s strength is primarily maintained, improving long-term outcomes.
  • Consistency of Tooth: As they are less invasive, these restorations help keep the natural consistency and contour of the tooth.
  • Avoiding Tooth Weakening: They bypass the potential for weakening that can come with complete tooth coverage or extensive drilling.

Inlays and onlays are conservative treatments that balance restoration with preservation.

Longevity of Materials Used

Inlays and onlays are fabricated from durable materials that withstand considerable masticatory forces, safeguarding your dentition for years. 

When bonded to tooth structure, the high-strength materials used in inlays and onlays effectively restore function and esthetics. They offer a remarkable degree of durability, standing up to the rigors of daily use in a manner comparable to natural tooth structure, which extends their viability significantly over time.

With proper care, these restorative solutions are known to last for many years, potentially up to a decade or more. Their longevity is subject to their customary wear in the oral environment, along with factors like the patient’s oral hygiene practices, occlusal (bite) forces, and exposure to acidic substances. 

The Procedure: What to Expect

At Awesome Dentistry, precision molds capture your tooth’s specifics, ensuring an accurate fit for your inlay or onlay. Following tooth preparation, the inlay or onlay is fabricated, often requiring two visits. It is then permanently affixed to the damaged tooth, restoring its integrity and appearance. The final appointment seals your custom restoration, reinstating your tooth to optimal function and esthetic harmony.

Preparing Your Tooth

The initial step is identifying the compromised area. Tooth preparation is a meticulous process. It involves removing decayed or damaged tooth material with precision instruments and shaping the remaining tooth structure to receive the inlay or onlay. This ensures a proper fit that restores function and maintains the tooth’s integrity.

Next, we create a detailed impression. Our dental team then takes an impression of the prepared tooth—similar to a blueprint for your restoration—which is used to craft the inlay or onlay in a dental laboratory. You will leave with a temporary seal over your tooth.

During the interim, a provisional restoration is placed to protect the prepared tooth against sensitivity and damage. At the same time, your permanent inlay or onlay is being meticulously crafted in the lab, ready for your next visit.

The Fitting and Bonding Process

Precision is vital for a successful fit. Once your inlay or onlay has been expertly crafted in the dental laboratory, we evaluate the fit against your prepped tooth. Ensuring accuracy in the restoration’s fit is crucial, not only for the tooth’s appearance but also for its long-term health and functionality. A precise fit minimizes the risk of future decay and reinforces the tooth’s strength.

The bonding agent is applied with care. We use a high-grade dental adhesive. A durable bonding agent secures the inlay or onlay to your tooth, which is then cured or hardened with a special light. This guarantees a strong attachment to your tooth, ensuring the restoration becomes integral to your bite and dental architecture. Your restored tooth is polished for a seamless finish.

Finally, we polish the bonded inlay or onlay, blending it perfectly with the surrounding tooth structure. This attention to detail improves the aesthetic result and provides a smooth, natural-feeling surface, safeguarding your comfort and bite function. With the final polish in place, your tooth is restored with strength and beauty – fully equipped to serve you well in the many years ahead.

Discover the Benefits of Inlays and Onlays at Awesome Dentistry!

Located in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, Awesome Dentistry specializes in restoring damaged teeth with custom-crafted inlays and onlays. These durable restorations preserve natural tooth structure while providing strength and aesthetic appeal. Ready to enhance your dental health? Schedule a consultation with Awesome Dentistry today, and let our expert team restore your smile!

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