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Do I Need a Dental Onlay or Inlay?
When a tooth is damaged or decayed past the point of needing a filling but not quite to the point where it needs a crown, a dental onlay or inlay may be the solution. They both provide a protective coating to the tooth.
Onlays address the damage that covers the entire biting surface of the tooth or one or more of the tooth’s cusps. Inlays fill the area between the cusps. Both restore the strength and beauty of the tooth to its natural state.
Filings typically weaken the tooth because of the drilling that has to occur. With an only or inlay, the tooth is actually strengthened and the procedure increases its chewing force by 50 to 75 percent. Also, less of the tooth structure is compromised. The materials used for these procedures are sturdy and durable and the tooth is not weakened during the installation.
An inlay is used to repair the tooth’s surface. The bumps on the back of the tooth, called cusps, can experience decay. If the decay is confined to this area, then an inlay is the perfect option. Ceramics, gold and composite resin are some of the materials that can be used to provide this protective covering. Inlays fix a small area of damage and preserve the healthy tooth.
Dental onlays are very similar to inlays, but the main difference is location. While inlays treat the cusps, onlays treat the biting surface of the tooth and can extend to one or more cusps. Onlays are sometimes called partial crowns as they restore a much larger area of the tooth than an inlay, but a smaller segment than a crown. Onlays can be made of the same material as inlays (ceramics, gold and composite resin) and provide strength and protection for the tooth.
The main difference in an inlay and an onlay is the size and location. An inlay is smaller than an onlay, but larger than a filling. An onlay is larger than an inlay, but smaller than a crown. Both provide strength and salvage the tooth. Both are better options than a crown as they save a larger portion of the healthy tooth.
If the damage to the tooth is too severe, then an inlay or an onlay will not be an option. In this case, a crown will be the next go-to. If a tooth is weakened due to decay and in danger of breaking or is already cracked, then a crown will be used to hold the tooth together. A crown is like a cap encircling the tooth to offer protection and hold it together.
Protect your teeth and your dental work to extend their life. Schedule regular cleanings, have your bite checked for abnormalities, speak up when there is pain and use your teeth only for eating. It is important to protect your smile and your investment and to do so on a daily basis. Know your options before agreeing to a crown or settling for a filling.
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