Inlays and Onlays
Cavities are a common issue that affects the health of your teeth. They happen when the acids from plaque and bacteria are left to erode your tooth enamel, leading to the formation of small pits. Untreated, they only get worse, destroying the structure of the tooth and can also lead to a serious, and painful, infection. Typically, cavities are treated with fillings. While effective in most situations, there are some situations in which fillings can compromise the health of the affected tooth. One such situation is when a cavity forms on the chewing surface of your molar. At NorthView Family Dental, we can treat such cavities with inlays and onlays.
How are Cavities Usually Treated?
Normally when you have a cavity, an amalgam or composite resin filling is placed. Amalgam, which is made up of metals suspended in mercury, is exceptionally strong when hardened. It can stand up to the strongest biting forces, which often makes it an ideal treatment for cavities in back teeth. However, these fillings are silver in color, and both the metal and mercury content often raises concerns for many patients. Also, when placed on the chewing surface of a tooth, amalgam can be driven deeper into the tooth. When this happens, it can eventually cause the tooth to split in half.
Composite resin is an aesthetic alternative to amalgam. It is white in color, blending in with the color of your natural enamel. This makes it a good option for cavities toward the front of the mouth. It also contains no metals or mercury. Instead, it is made up of plastic, fine glass and other materials. Composite fillings lack the strength of amalgam. When placed on the chewing surfaces, they can break down quickly, and may even shatter apart.
What are Inlays and Onlays?
Inlays and onlays are alternatives to traditional fillings, ideal for filling cavities that are on the chewing surfaces of your molars. These fillings are designed and created outside of the cavity, rather than being cured inside of it. While they can be made out of some different materials, they are typically made of porcelain. The porcelain used for these restorations is quite strong, able to stand up to daily use. Moreover, it has the added benefit being able to be made to perfectly match the color of your natural teeth. An inlay is used when only a single cusp of your molar is affected. Onlays, on the other hand, are used when two or more cusps have been affected by a cavity. Often called a partial crown, an onlay builds up the structure of the damaged tooth.
How are Inlays and Onlays Placed?
Inlays and onlays take two appointments to place. During your first appointment, we drill away the decay of the tooth and disinfect it. Next, an impression of the tooth is taken and sent to a dental lab. The lab uses the impression to create an inlay or onlay that will fit perfectly inside of your cavity. Because it can take up to two weeks for the restoration to be sent back, a temporary filling is placed. Once the inlay or onlay is ready, we check it for fit and secure it in place with special dental cement.
What are the Benefits of Inlays and Onlays?
Inlays and onlays offer numerous benefits.
Inlays and onlays provide an alternative to composite and amalgam fillings, which strengthen the affected tooth rather than compromise it. If you have or suspect you have, a cavity, call NorthView Family Dental today and find out if an inlay or onlay is right for you at (509) 590-1763.