Dental Inlays and Onlays
in Golden, CO
Dental Inlays and Onlays
There is some confusion about what dental inlays and onlays are and what dental problems they are used to correct. Inlays and onlays derive their names from the location on the tooth where they are used. At our practice, we utilize inlays and onlays as alternatives to more aggressive crowns and as methods for restoring normal tooth structure after decay or other damage.
Sometimes inlays and onlays are known as “indirect fillings” because unlike standard amalgam or resin fillings that are mixed and placed in our office, inlays and onlays are fabricated in a dental laboratory and cemented or bonded onto the tooth in our office. We like using these options for restorations because, unlike standard fillings, inlays and onlays do not weaken the tooth structure but actually strengthen it, in most cases adding between 50 to 75 percent more chewing force.
What is a dental inlay?
You can think of an inlay as an alternative to a typical filling. A dental inlay can also fix an existing tooth that is too damaged to support a tooth filling, but not damaged enough to merit a dental crown. By definition an inlay must be placed in the chewing surface between the cusps.
A dental inlay made of porcelain or gold is more durable than a typical filling made of amalgam or composite resin. Plus, in cases of large amounts of decay they are a less expensive option than a crown, and we can keep more of the natural tooth.
An inlay is an “indirect dental restoration,” meaning that we make a mold once your tooth is prepared and send it to a dental lab for fabrication. We then place the finished inlay in our office.
What is a dental onlay?
Dental onlays involve restoration of more extensive damage, usually involving not only the chewing surface but one or more of the tooth cusps as well. This extends to the outside of the tooth. Because of this extensive coverage, dental onlays are sometimes called “partial crowns,” but they really aren’t the same.
A dental onlay falls in between a large filling and a crown. We like them because they enable us to save the tooth, actually strengthening it, without having to resort to a full crown that covers the entire tooth.
Like inlays, onlays are made of porcelain or gold and if cared for properly, should remain long-lasting. Like our inlays, Dr. Gill and Dr. Kenson utilize a dental lab to create our onlays to the exact quality and specifications we demand. This ensures long-lasting function for our patients.
What’s The Difference Between Dental Inlays and Onlays?
To differentiate between inlays and Onlays, you simply need to note their location. Inlays are placed within the cusp tips of the tooth; onlays usually cover the entire chewing surface including one or more tooth cusps. We use mainly porcelain at our practice, but can also use gold if the patient prefers.
What Are The Benefits of Dental Onlays and Inlays?
Traditional fillings often decrease the overall strength of the natural tooth. However, inlays and onlays are bonded directly onto the surface of the tooth and can actually increase its strength. An inlay or onlay is often found to be a good alternative to crowns for teeth that are not extensively damaged.
How is a Dental Inlay and Onlay Procedure Performed?
Whether you need an inlay or an onlay (remember, the difference is if the damage encompasses one of the cusps or not), the procedure is the same. It takes two visits with Dr. Gill or Dr. Kenson.
During your first visit we prepare the tooth. First, we remove the decayed portion of the tooth. Then we take an impression of the tooth’s structure, along with photos of the tooth. These are then sent to the dental lab to use when creating your inlay or onlay. The photos allow the lab to accurately match your natural tooth color. Our lab usually takes around two weeks to create your restoration. In the meantime we place a temporary restoration onto your tooth so that you can chew safely and comfortably.
When your inlay or onlay arrives at our office, you return for your second appointment. We first remove the temporary filling and thoroughly clean the tooth. Then we check the fit and color of your inlay/onlay. Once satisfied, we cement it permanently onto your tooth.
What Are The Advantages of Porcelain Inlays?
Porcelain inlays have many advantages over traditional amalgam fillings:
- Inlays don’t require that we remove as much of the healthy natural tooth as is necessary when placing a typical filling.
- Inlays actually strengthen your tooth in most cases, whereas metal fillings weaken the tooth.
- Inlays don’t contract and expand with hot and cold foods (amalgam fillings do), so they do not crack your teeth over time.
- Porcelain inlays cannot be detected in your tooth; they look natural.
- Inlays are more durable than amalgam or resin fillings.
- Inlays can replace more decay without weakening the tooth, whereas overly large fillings seriously weaken a tooth.
What Results Can Dental Inlays and Onlays Achieve?
Inlays and onlays are stable and strong options of minor tooth repairs, reconstruction, and/or fillings. It is important to note that one should not begin to slack on their dental care after having their teeth repaired with inlays and onlays. With regular oral and dental hygiene maintenance, and bi-yearly dental cleanings and checkups, the results of these procedures should remain long-lasting.
What Our Patients Have to Say
“The staff at Golden Dental Solutions are rock stars! They use the latest technology in dentistry providing the best care possible. They explain each and every step of the process allowing the patient to make good decisions about their health. I am new in town, and happy to know I have a great group to help me stay healthy. Thanks!” -Tobi P.
What’s the Difference between Inlays and Onlays and Dental Crowns?
People confuse these terms. We discussed the advantages of porcelain inlays above. They are in the same realm as a filling, as they are placed inside the cusps of the tooth. Inlays aren’t akin to a dental crown at all.
Onlays are a different story. They may cover one, two, or even all the cusps of a tooth. But this is only on the top of the tooth. Onlays aren’t intended to cover the entire tooth. They are meant to fill the space left when we removed the decayed tooth tissue.
Our goals are different with porcelain crowns. In most cases, a crown is used to preserve a tooth that could otherwise need extraction due to a deep crack, excessive amounts of decay, and the like. Once we remove the damaged portion of the tooth, the remaining portion will not be strong enough to withstand the forces created with biting and chewing. A crown is then used to cover the entire natural tooth all the way down to the gumline. The crown then gives the tooth the strength it needs for daily use.
The preparation for a crown or an onlay differs, as well. For an onlay we remove the decayed portion of the tooth, but the remainder of the tooth is unchanged. With a crown, we need to shave down the natural tooth on all sides and on the top to make room for the crown to sit over the tooth and take the same space the natural tooth required.
At Golden Dental Solutions we use onlays in lieu of crowns if possible. Porcelain onlays provide all the advantages of inlays when compared to typical amalgam fillings, and they are a more affordable alternative to a crown. Often, however, we don’t have a choice when a heavily damaged tooth can only be saved with a crown.
How Long Do Inlays and Onlays Last?
When taken care of properly, inlays and onlays can last anywhere between 10 to 30 years.
How Can I Take Care Of My Inlays and Onlays?
Inlays and onlays require the same home hygiene that you normally practice — brushing twice a day and flossing. In comparison to a crown, an onlay doesn’t demand special attention.
Is the Placement of an Inlay or an Onlay Painful?
These procedures with Drs. Gill, Kenson, or Qi are not any more painful than having a traditional filling placed in a tooth once the decay from a cavity has been removed. During your first visit we prepare the tooth by removing the decayed portion. This process is the same as when placing a filling. We will locally numb the area where we are working, so you won’t feel a thing. When we are finished and take impressions to create the inlay/onlay, we place a temporary restoration onto the tooth so that you can chew and eat normally. You may have some slight soreness afterwards, mostly due to having your mouth open for a longer period than you are used to, but this is easily handled with over-the-counter pain medication. Placing the inlay/onlay during your second appointment is usually painless.
Do I Need to Prepare for These Procedures?
There isn’t any preparation necessary, and there isn’t any recovery.
Can I Combine Having an Inlay or Onlay with Other Treatments?
It would be simple for us to combine your regular twice-yearly exam and professional cleaning with these procedures if that wasn’t where we discovered your decay. Also, you could combine a teeth whitening session with these appointments. We offer Zoom! and Kör teeth whitening systems, and they both can whiten your teeth up to 10 shades in about an hour.
Will I Need to Replace My Inlay or Onlay Again in the Future?
At Golden Dental Solutions, we love inlays and onlays because they are so strong and durable. With good home hygiene and coming to see our team every six months for your professional cleanings and exams, your porcelain inlay or onlay can last up to 30 years. Obviously, this depends on the patient, but they are quite enduring.
Schedule a consultation
If you are interested in Dental Inlays or Onlays and would like to see if you are a good candidate, schedule a consultation with Dr. Gill, Dr. Kenson, or Dr. Qi today! Call (303) 277-9600 or fill out and submit the appointment request form below. Our practice serves patients from Denver, Arvada, Golden, and surrounding areas, and we look forward to meeting you.