For cavities, a dental inlay may be a good option to treat the decayed tooth. Many people probably think of fillings when it comes to repairing cavities. While this treatment can be effective, it is worth considering inlays as well. Both have benefits and drawbacks. Your dentist can explain the process of each treatment to…
What Is a Inlay Dental Restoration?
When a tooth shows signs of decay or damage, a dentist may recommend one or several dental restoration options. One of the more common options, aside from filling, is a dental inlay. For patients to make informed decisions regarding treatment, it is important to understand what an inlay is and how it differs from a filling or onlay.
The inlay dental restoration process
A dental inlay is a filling that a dental professional places within the tooth. This type of pre-molded filling does not extend to the surface or cusp of the tooth. For this reason, the procedure for placing an inlay is somewhat invasive.
Before placing an inlay, the dentist needs to drill out the decayed or rotted portion of the tooth and clean the hollowed-out section. Once the section is clean, the dentist takes an impression of the inner tooth to send to a dental laboratory, which makes the restoration.
Inlays are typically made of composite resin or porcelain, though, like traditional fillings, they can also be made of silver amalgam or gold. Many people prefer the composite resin or porcelain options, as these more closely match the natural tooth color. However, for patients who prefer durability, gold is the recommended option.
The differences between an inlay, onlay, and filling
An inlay is a restoration option a dentist may recommend if the damage lies solely within the tooth. Fillings and onlays, however, are necessary if the damage is more extensive and extends to the tip or cusp of the tooth. As with an inlay, a dentist needs to drill out the decayed or damaged section of the tooth to make room for the filling material.
With a traditional filling, a dentist typically performs the restoration then and there, without needing a dental lab. Fillings come in several different materials, including composite resin, gold, silver amalgam, and porcelain.
For an onlay, as with an inlay, a dentist needs to send an impression of the tooth to a dental lab. To protect the tooth from further damage in the meantime, the dentist will place a temporary onlay.
When an inlay is necessary
The differences between an inlay, onlay, and filling are subtle, so how does a dentist decide when to use an inlay over the other dental restoration options? There are a few different criteria a dental professional may check for when determining the best course of treatment:
- Fractured, broken, or decayed material that does not extend to the cusp of the tooth
- Damage widespread enough that a traditional filling would do more harm than good
- Damage that is not so extensive to necessitate the removal of enough tooth material to support a crown
Essentially, inlays are a good middle ground when it comes to tooth restoration options.
It is not uncommon for tooth decay or damage to affect just the inside of a tooth. Just because one cannot see interior tooth damage, though, does not mean that it cannot affect one’s oral health, bite, or comfort. To prevent further damage from occurring, patients who experience tooth pain or sensitivity should talk to their dentists about using an inlay for a dental restoration.
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