In cosmetic dentistry, dental inlays and onlays are restorative procedures used to repair those rear teeth that suffer from mild to moderate levels of decay. They are also used in restoring any cracked or fractured teeth in case where the damage is not that severe requiring a dental crown restorative procedure.
Inlays and onlays today are usually made from porcelain, composite resin and sometimes the good old gold. Like all the other cosmetic dental procedures today, fillings for inlays and onlays can be made from tooth-colored materials and are often used to replace metal fillings.
Dental inlays are used to treat decayed or damaged teeth within their indented top surfaces (aside from replacing old metal fillings).
The procedure is simple and is done in two sessions. The first visit is for making a teeth impression and for placing a temporary inlay. Your dentist sends your impression to a dental lab to make an inlay to match your personal dental specifications.
The second visit is for removal of the temporary inlay and the placement of the permanent one on your teeth. Except for some mild tenderness, you can go to work or return to your other activities right after the process.
Where the inlays treat decays within the tooth cusps (top projections) dental onlays are used to treat decays that extend to one or more cusps. Onlays are also placed in much the same way as inlays.
The treatment works much like those done with dental inlays (two sessions, impression-making in the first and permanent placement in the second).
They are also created from tooth-colored materials that make them almost undetectable to the naked eye. Onlays help conserve more tooth structure because they require minimal removal of tooth surface during the bonding process.
The biggest benefit for both inlays and onlays is avoiding the need for more extensive treatments using expensive dental crowns, dental bridges or dental implants.
Unlike old metal fillings, inlays and onlays do not expand or contract in contact with hot or cold foods. (Constant changes in size, however minuscule, weakens and eventually fractures the affected tooth.)
Strength and beauty
Because of the way they are made (custom-fitted), they help strengthen teeth by up to 75% their original strength. The durable material used in them helps them last up to 30 years, much longer than the lifespan of regular fillings.
Moreover, dental inlays and onlays can be made from durable, tooth-colored porcelain and offer much more enduring and natural-looking finish than metal fillings.
Also, their customized manufacture allows dentists to securely bond them to the tooth surface. The bond adds structural strength to the tooth and prevents bacteria from entering and forming cavities all over again.
As is usually the case, costs of porcelain inlays and onlays are also variable and dependent on some factors – the dentist’s experience and expertise, the expense of the lab, cost of materials and others.
Generally, inlays and onlays cost between $700 and $1,200, and averages around $900 total.
Preventing cavities and tooth decay by way of correct brushing of the teeth have always been the battle cry of mothers and dentists ever since. Fortunately, science had developed cosmetic dentistry to help us fight this age-old battle.