What are inlays and onlays?
Inlays and onlays are more conservative options for restoring a tooth than a full coverage crown. Not always is it possible to utilize this approach but when you have significant natural tooth structure remaining they are an excellent option. Typically they are made of high strength porcelain and gold. These pieces are bonded or luted to the damaged area of the tooth. An inlay, which is similar to a filling, is used inside the cusp tips of the tooth.
Historically, gold had been the material of choice for inlays and onlays. In recent years, however, porcelain has become increasingly popular due to its strength and color, which can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.
How are inlays and onlays applied?
Inlays and onlays require two appointments to complete the procedure. During the first visit, the filling being replaced or the damaged or decaying area of the tooth is removed, and the tooth is prepared for the inlay or onlay. To ensure proper fit and bite, an digital impression of the tooth is made by the dentist, and sent to a lab for fabrication. The dentist will then apply a temporary onlay to the tooth and schedule the next appointment.
At the second appointment, the temporary onlay is removed. Dr. Torrey or Dr. Erickson will then make sure that the inlay or onlay fits correctly. If the fit is satisfactory, the inlay or onlay will be bonded to the tooth with a strong resin and polished to a smooth finish.
Considerations for inlays and onlays
Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by greater than 50 percent. As an alternative, inlays and onlays, which are bonded directly onto the tooth using special high-strength resins, can actually increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent. As a result, they can last from 10 to 30 years. In some cases, where the damage to the tooth is not extensive enough to merit an entire crown, onlays can provide a very good alternative.
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