Although inlays and onlays are similar to fillings, there is a significant difference. The material for fillings is placed inside the cavity and is then shaped by the dentist. With inlays and overlays, a single solid piece is made outside the tooth for a precise fit to the cavity being filled. They are usually used when a cavity is too large to be filled.
An inlay is similar to a filling, in that the tooth is drilled and filled with a composite material. The inlay is fitted directly inside a tooth that has been cleared of all decay. The inlay is formed outside of the mouth and when it has hardened, it is placed directly inside the tooth as a single, solid piece. The benefit of filling a cavity in this way is that the inlay will not shrink during the drying process and your cavity will have a precise fitting inlay.
Overlays are used to restore teeth where the top of the teeth have been chipped, broken or worn. They are also suitable where the tooth has suffered significant damage as a result of decay. While the procedure requires a similar process to an inlay, onlays are placed on top of a damaged tooth.
Inlays, onlays and fillings serve the same purpose and that is to fill a cavity in a damaged tooth. A filling involves the dentist placing the putty-like composite material inside the cavity of your tooth before being shaping it. With inlays and onlays, the composite material is produced in the laboratory where it is custom-made to precisely fit directly inside or on top of the tooth.
As with most dental procedures, the first visit with your Queen Square Dental practitioner involves a consultation and examination. To prepare your tooth for an inlay or onlay, your dentist will apply a local anaesthetic and prepare your tooth for either an inlay or onlay. If the tooth has a filling, it will be removed during preparation and any additional decay will also be removed.
The next step is for your dentist to take an impression of the tooth. This impression is sent to the laboratory so the inlay or onlay can be made using a composite resin or porcelain. During this time, your dentist may fit you with a temporary filling to protect what remains of your tooth and the gum tissue beneath it.
When your inlay or onlay is ready, you will come in for your second visit. The temporary filling will be removed and replaced with the inlay or onlay. It will be permanently secured using dental cement. Once your inlay or onlay is properly secured, you are done and your new reconstructed tooth will look and feel like a natural tooth.
There are a number of advantages to having inlays or onlays fitted, particularly in comparison to traditional fillings. Inlays and onlays can help prevent further decaying of the affected tooth and can last considerably longer. In most cases, and with proper dental care, inlays and onlays can last for periods of between 10 to 30 years. They are also more resistant to stains and are generally not as sensitive to hot and cold sensations. Once fitted, inlays and onlays look just like a natural, healthy tooth and can vastly improve the strength of the tooth.
No special care is needed for inlays and onlays. However, proper dental hygiene is vital to protect the remaining part of the tooth as well as the part that has been restored. Keep up with your regular dental check-ups as well and your inlay or onlay can last for years to come.