Known as partial crowns, inlays and onlays are indirect fillings. If a tooth is too damaged to be fixed by a simple filling, an inlay or onlay may be used to repair the tooth. Ideal for situations in which the damage isn’t too extensive, an inlay or onlay can be used instead of applying a full-coverage crown.
Typically, patients receive inlays or onlays when they have mild to moderate damage to one or more teeth. Often, this is caused by decay or slight chipping. Once any damaged or decaying material is removed by your dentist, a partial crown can be affixed to the tooth. Matched seamlessly to your teeth, inlays and onlays preserve your smile, protect the remains of the tooth and ensure bacteria cannot enter via a cavity in the tooth.
Inlays and onlays are very similar but they are applied to slightly different areas of the tooth. An inlay generally fits within the cusps of a tooth, whereas an onlay covers one or more of the cusps. You can easily feel the cusps or points on a molar or premolar tooth; they are simply the four little points which are slightly raised at the ‘corners’ of the tooth. Inlays lie within these points, whilst onlays are slightly larger in order to cover one or more of them
Although there is a difference between inlays and onlays, this doesn’t affect the application or procedure when you have treatment. Upon examining your teeth and the determining the exact location and extent of the damage, your dentist will decide which option is more appropriate for you.
When you get a straightforward, simply filling, your dentist will prepare the tooth and apply the filling directly to the tooth. Generally, this can be done in one important and requires very little recovery time. Modern material means fillings can be ‘set’ quickly, so you experience minimal downtime and the filling can often be applied within a matter of minutes.
An indirect filling is prepared following an initial dental appointment, after a mold or impression of your mouth has been taken. Indirect fillings, such an inlays and onlays, are a more substantial than a simply filling, they are usually produced in a dental laboratory. Using a digital impression or putty-like mold of your teeth, a bespoke inlay or onlay can be produced.
Once your partial crown is ready to be fitted, you’ll have a subsequent appointment with your dentist. With the tooth prepared and existing decay removed, your inlay or onlay can be fitted relatively quickly and with minor discomfort.
Before placing an inlay or onlay on the tooth, it’s essential that any signs of decay are removed. Your dentist will prepare the tooth so that all forms of infection and decay are eradicated and can no longer can further damage to the affected area. Your dentist will numb the affected area using local anesthetic, so you won’t feel a thing during the procedure.
Once the tooth has been prepared, an impression of your mouth can taken. When you get partial crowns in Boston, your dentist will use either or both digital impressions or molds to create a perfect model of your tooth. This ensures the inlay or onlay will replacing the decayed part of the tooth seamlessly.
Your dentist will use various charts to ‘color-match’ the inlay or onlay to your teeth, so it won’t be noticeable once it’s fitted. Alternatively, you can opt for gold inlays and onlays if you prefer.
As your partial crown will be produced outside of your appointment, by our dental laboratory partners, your dentist may apply a temporary filling to the area while you wait for your next appointment. This ensures that further decay cannot occur and prevents any sensitivity until the permanent partial crown can be applied.
At your second appointment, your dentist will bond the partial crown to your tooth. By using specialist cement or resin, your dentist can affix the partial crown permanently. Once applied, your dentist may position a light over the affected area for a few seconds. This enables the bonding resin to harden and keeps your inlay or onlay in place in the long-term.
Generally, inlays and onlays don’t require any specialist maintenance but your dentist will provide you with specific advice during your appointment. As always, taking the time floss carefully and brush your teeth regularly is important to prevent further decay from developing and additional cavities forming.
A partial crown, such as an inlay or onlay, is a more conservative treatment than a full-coverage crown, and so the tooth requires more minimal preparation. When a full crown is fitted, a substantial amount of the tooth must be reshaped so that the crown can be fitted over it. With an inlay or onlay, however, less of the tooth will need to be removed.
Although partial crowns aren’t necessarily better than full-coverage crowns, it is important to preserve as much of your tooth as possible. If the damage is minimal enough, inlays and onlays can be used to repair it without losing much of the surrounding material in the process. Whilst full-coverage crowns are ideal for teeth which have been damaged more extensive, inlays and onlays may be just as effective for teeth which are damaged enough to require a more substantial repair than a straightforward filling but not decayed enough to require a full crown.
As a long-term solution to mild or moderate decay, having an inlay or onlay fitted should negate the need for a full crown to be fitted at a later date. Furthermore, taking action now and having a partial crown fitted will ensure that decayed material is removed and that further infection cannot develop in or around the tooth.
Dental Partners of Boston offers a permanent resolution to existing decay, improve tooth appearance and ensure a seamless fit. Dental inlays and onlays are a permanent and cost-effective option when it comes to repairing your teeth and preserving your smile. Schedule an appointment with us today!
Maria E. Cardenas
Michael G. O’Toole