Restoring a Tooth With Inlays and Onlays

We’re all familiar with fillings and crowns, but have you wondered if there are alternatives when a filling isn’t enough? Or when a crown is too much? Inlays and onlays are two alternatives that restore damaged teeth. While they both serve the same purpose—to restore a tooth that has damage—there are some key differences between them. Here’s everything you need to know about inlays and onlays in Lakewood, CO. 

What Are Inlays?

An inlay is a dental restoration that repairs small tooth decay or damage. It’s typically a composite or porcelain material (matched to your tooth color) that fills in spaces in the hollow of the tooth. It’s custom-made to fit the specific shape of the damaged area and then bonded to the tooth using a special adhesive. Inlays typically last for up to 15 years or more with proper care.

When a cavity or decayed area within a tooth is too large for a filling, but too small for a crown, inlays are an ideal solution. They are much less invasive than dental crowns and can help preserve the tooth’s natural structure. There are different types of inlays, but they all fit inside your tooth and protect the most important parts of the tooth from further damage. 

During an inlay application, a dentist prepares the tooth by removing any decay or damage. Next, they will make an impression of the tooth. When it’s ready, they will securely bond it to the tooth with adhesive.

Inlays are generally not painful, although you may experience discomfort during the tooth bonding process. You may also need to take over-the-counter pain medication for a day or two following the procedure.

What Are Onlays?

A dental onlay is a different treatment that may be an effective solution for your oral health and cosmetic needs. Onlays are an alternative to crowns and work well when there is enough healthy tooth remaining to support the restoration. Unlike inlays, which fill up the hollow or hole of a tooth, onlays cover damage to the cusp or biting surface of a tooth. Onlays are used when one or more of the tooth’s cusps have been damaged, but not to the extent that a dental crown is necessary. In some cases, an onlay works alongside an inlay (a smaller restoration). Together, they restore a tooth to its original shape and function.

Onlays vs. Crowns: Which One is Better?

A dental crown offers many benefits but removes a significant amount of the healthy tooth’s structure. Because of this, your dentist might use an onlay instead. Onlays can help preserve the remaining portion of the healthy tooth while still providing protection and support. However, some cases may also necessitate the use of a crown. Crowns can help resolve some issues but they could also lead to increased fracture risk and the potential need for a root canal.

No matter what material you choose for your onlay, it is important to practice good oral hygiene. This will ensure that your restoration lasts for as long as possible. 

When Might You Need Inlays or Onlays in Lakewood?

Inlays and onlays in dentistry are often alternatives to fillings and crowns. The type of restoration that is right for you will depend on the extent of the damage to your tooth. Inlays and onlays repair the damage that is too extensive for a filling but not enough to get a crown. If you have a tooth chipped, cracked, or worn down from grinding or chewing, an inlay or onlay may be the best option to restore it. Keep in mind that your dentist should also look for issues such as an airway obstruction or sleep-disordered breathing if your teeth are worn down. 

When the hole in the tooth is too large for a dental filling and there isn’t enough room for additional reinforcement around a tooth, an inlay is a great alternative. 

A dental onlay covers the chewing surface on teeth that have more than a filling or inlay but less than need a dental crown. For example, if you’re missing a lot of teeth or your teeth are structurally compromised, you would use an onlay to protect them from breaking.

Benefits of Inlays or Onlays in Lakewood

  1. Inlays and Onlays Protect Your Teeth: Your teeth are constantly under attack from the environment, whether it’s the food you eat or the beverages you drink. Over time, this damage can start to add up and lead to serious problems like tooth decay or gum disease. Inlays and onlays act as a barrier between your teeth and the outside world, protecting them from further damage. This can help to prevent cavities and other problems down the road.
  2. Inlay and Onlays Can Save Your Teeth: If you have a tooth that is severely damaged, an inlays or onlays can help to save it. By protecting the tooth from further damage, you can avoid having to get it extracted or replaced. This can help to keep your smile looking its best and prevent future problems.
  3. Inlay and Onlays Look Natural: Inlays and onlays are made from materials that match the color of your teeth, so they blend in seamlessly with your smile. Nobody will be able to tell that you have them, which means you can keep your smile looking natural.
  4. Inlays and Onlays Are Durable: Inlays and onlays are made from strong materials that withstand everyday wear and tear from eating, drinking, and speaking. With proper care, they can last for many years.
  5. Inlays and Onlays Are Easy to Care For: Caring for your inlays and onlays is like caring for your natural teeth. You should brush and floss regularly and see your dentist for regular checkups. By taking good care of them, you can help to prolong their life.
  6. Inlays and Onlays last longer than resin fillings: This is because the material is stronger and has less shrinkage than tooth colored resin fillings.  When well fit to you tooth and well maintained, they will last longer than “regular” fillings.

Schedule an Appointment at Fox Point Dental in Lakewood, CO

If you’re considering dental onlays and inlays in Lakewood, it’s important to work with a dentist with experience in dental restorations. You’ll need to find one right for your dental health needs.

An inlay or onlay procedure typically takes two appointments. On the first visit, we take impressions to create the inlay or onlay. During the second visit, we will careful fit and cement the inlay or onlay into place. 

If you have any questions about inlays or onlays, just contact us! We’d love to sit down and discuss how you can achieve better oral health and a beautiful, healthy smile! Please call us at 303-732-8909 or schedule an appointment with us here! 

To learn more about our Restorative Dentistry Services, visit this page here.

About the Author

Dr. Elizabeth Turner is a whole-health, family dentist in Lakewood, CO who provides general, restorative, and cosmetic dental care. She focuses on the mouth-body connection and helps her patients smile confidently, breathe clearer, and live healthier lives. 

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