Inlays and Onlays
Teeth can become damaged. At Alder Dental, our priority is always to save and protect the natural tooth structure when possible, it is best for your oral health and will reduce future problems for the patient. When a tooth becomes damaged from decay, breakage or fracture, we can strengthen the tooth and help the patient retain the original structure. For some patients this may mean a full crown, for other patients, we may be able to offer the strength they need with a ¾ crown, known as a dental inlay or onlay.
A dental crown is sometimes also referred to as a cap, that is because it is designed to encase the tooth fully. A dental crown is customized to the patient's bite, meaning we mimic the shape, size, and place the same occlusal ridges and valleys of the biting surface. Once placed, the original tooth structure is protected by the additional strength of the crown. The downside of a dental crown is that we need to reduce the size of the tooth significantly to cover the tooth. When possible, we want to retain as much natural tooth structure as we can. This is where inlays and onlays become a larger benefit.
Inlays and Onlays
A dental inlay or onlay allows us to customize a crown-like restoration, which will provide additional strength to the tooth, without the need for eliminating a significant portion of the natural tooth.
Sometimes referred to as a ¾ crown, a dental inlay or onlay is designed to provide a cover to a damaged portion of the tooth. An inlay is customized to fit a tooth that has been damaged due to a large cavity. Small cavities can be filled with amalgam or composite filling material, but these materials are not strong or durable enough to stay in place when the cavity is large. The patient needs something more durable. A dental inlay is made using the same material as a dental crown, namely metal, porcelain, gold, or ceramic. This material can withstand the standard chewing pressure of the average person, and if cared for properly it should last many years. The large benefit of a dental inlay versus a traditional crown is the dentist does not have to remove nearly as much natural tooth structure to place it.
A dental onlay is used when the patient has experienced some breakage to the tooth. We are constantly using our teeth, and they can become fractured or broken. A broken tooth can be painful and uncomfortable; it can cause patients to stop chewing evenly or to feel embarrassed if seen. A dental onlay can be used to restore the broken portion of the tooth. The advantage of having a tooth restored with an onlay over a crown is that we can repair just the broken portion of the tooth without disrupting the size or strength of the entire tooth.
Our staff at Alder Dental is happy to review these options with you and discuss if an inlay or onlay is the right course of treatment for your needs.