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What is an inlay or onlay?

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Placing an inlay or onlay restores the damaged portion of your tooth while preserving healthy tooth structure.

Inlays and onlays are conservative dental prosthesis used to fix moderately-to-severely damaged teeth. Typically, inlays and onlays are used to restore teeth which are too far damaged for traditional fillings but at the same time not so bad where they would require a full coverage crown. By placing an inlay or onlay on your tooth, you restore the damaged portion of your tooth while preserving healthy tooth structure. Inlays and onlays are both durable, natural looking and work very well in restoring damaged teeth back to their original form.

What is the process of receiving an inlay or onlay for your tooth?

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Inlays and onlays are made in a laboratory from durable porcelain or ceramic material similar to a crown.

The process of receiving an inlay or onlay is very similar to receiving a crown. Your dentist will remove damaged tooth structure, take a PVS or digital impression of your tooth and fabricate an inlay or onlay from the impression. When prepared, the inlay or onlay is bonded onto your tooth and locked in place. Inlays and onlays are made in a laboratory from durable porcelain or ceramic material similar to a crown. Once bonded onto your tooth, they act to protect your tooth from cavity bugs, fracture and further damage. The difference between an inlay and onlay is in how much tooth structure is removed, as follows:

Inlays

Inlays are very conservative and used to restore minimally damaged teeth. Placing an inlay does not involve removing any outer tooth structure and is fully confined within the tooth. Essentially, inlays leave your outer tooth walls fully intact, thus preserving maximum tooth structure.

Onlays

Onlays are larger than inlays and thus used for restoring teeth with more damage or fracture lines. Typically, an onlay extends into the outer walls of your tooth either from the inside or outside. Whereas inlays are closed to a filling in size, onlays are closer to a full coverage crown. Typically, onlays leave only a small potion of your tooth intact and cover most of the tooth structure.

What is the difference between inlays and onlays versus a traditional crown?

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Inlays and onlays are far more conservative than full coverage crowns and require less tooth removal.

Inlays and onlays are very similar to crowns from many perspectives, for instance:

  • They are all made from porcelain or ceramic
  • The procedure for receiving a crown is nearly identical to that of receiving an inlay or onlay
  • Inlays and onlays get bonded to your teeth the same that a crown would

The major difference between these is in how much tooth structure needs to be removed. Inlays and onlays are far more conservative than full coverage crowns and require less tooth removal. This makes inlays and onlays a great option for restoring minimally damaged teeth which can’t be restored with a filling.

What are the benefits of inlays and onlays?

As mentioned above, inlays and onlays are used to restore moderately-to-severely damaged teeth. However, there are a few benefits which sets them apart from fillings and crowns. Here are some of the benefits of inlays and onlays which make them a popular treatment option:

Better protection

Both inlays and onlays are made from porcelain or ceramic which makes them much stronger than white fillings. White fillings are made from porous resins which can cause them to break or crack much. Plus, large white fillings frequently leak which leads to nerve damage and infection. Inlays and onlays do a much better job of protecting teeth against cavities and fracture and are far less likely to leak.

More conservative treatment

When compared to full coverage crowns, inlays and onlays are far more conservative. This means that they leave more of your original tooth structure intact. Full coverage crowns require your dentist to shave the entire tooth structure above the gum line. However, inlays and onlays only require the removal of damaged tooth structure. Being more conservative has its benefits. For instance, this reduces the likelihood of your tooth requiring a root canal treatment or breaking off and needing a dental implant.

Excellent durability

Both inlays and onlays are definitive restorations which are designed to protect teeth against cavities and fracture. Plus, inlays and onlays are made from porcelain or ceramic which makes them extremely durable and fracture resistant. A well-designed inlay or onlay could easily last you decades, or even a lifetime, when properly maintained.

When is it better to go with a traditional crown over an inlay or onlay?

Keep in mind, there are many cases where placing a crown is a better option than inlays or onlays. Here are some examples of cases where it might be best to go with a full coverage crown as opposed to inlays or onlays:

Severely damaged tooth

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Severely damaged teeth are better restored with a full coverage crown that protects the whole tooth.

The main benefit of inlays and onlays is that they are more conservative and preserve more original tooth structure. However, if your tooth is very damaged, then placing a conservative restoration doesn’t make too much sense. Severely damaged teeth are better restored with a full coverage crown that protects the whole tooth. Placing an inlay or onlay leaves the tooth vulnerable and could lead to more damage and possibly tooth loss!

Root canal treated teeth

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Placing a full coverage crown is a much better option to protect all root canal treated teeth.

Once a tooth receives root canal therapy, it becomes weak and brittle over time. This occurs because blood flow to the tooth is removed along with the nerve structures. As a result, your tooth becomes fragile and can break over time. Placing a full coverage crown is a much better option to protect all root canal treated teeth.

Missing teeth

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Patients with missing teeth overcompensate by placing additional pressure onto their remaining teeth.

If you have several missing teeth in your mouth, it’s always better to go with full coverage crowns instead of inlays and onlays. For one, missing teeth is a sign of failure to maintain ideal oral hygiene. As a result, going with a stronger and more durable restoration such as full coverage crown is preferred. Additionally, patients with missing teeth overcompensate by placing additional pressure onto their remaining teeth. This added forces can cause teeth with inlays and onlays to fracture. Consequently, it’s always best to go with full coverage crowns if you have multiple missing teeth in your mouth.

Poor bite forces

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patients with a crossbite place a ton more forces onto their chewing teeth.

Having a poor bite also results in added stress onto your remaining teeth. For instance, those with a crossbite place a ton more forces onto their chewing teeth. Similarly, having a class 3 malocclusion places added stress onto your back teeth. For these patients, it is typically recommended to go with full coverage crowns instead of inlays and onlays. The added bite forces can stress inlays and onlays, leading to fracture of either the inlay/onlay or the tooth itself.

Teeth grinding

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It’s always better to go with full coverage crowns for those with heavy grinding habits.

Grinding your teeth, same as with a poor bite, places additional unwanted forces onto your teeth. Those with heavy teeth grinding habits tend to fracture their inlays and onlays with time. As a result, it’s always better to go with full coverage crowns for those with heavy grinding habits. In fact, for the worse teeth grinders, it’s best to only go with extra strong BruxZir full coverage ceramic crowns. Otherwise, you could risk breaking your tooth or dental restoration in a short amount of time!

Inlays and onlays in Orange County:

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We offer customized ceramic and porcelain inlays and onlays to help meet your functional and aesthetic needs.

Call us if you’re interested in receiving inlays or onlays to restore your teeth. We are located in Orange County and you can reach us at (949)481-2540 or book your appointment online today. Our dentist, Dr. Jazayeri, will help you decided if an inlay or onlay is suitable for your needs. We offer customized ceramic and porcelain inlays and onlays to help meet your functional and aesthetic needs. Don’t wait until your damaged tooth develops an infection or turns into a toothache and give us a call today. If you’d like to learn more about treatments related to inlays and onlay, click on the following links:

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