If you have extensive cavities in a tooth and it cannot be corrected with a filling, you may think that your only option is a crown (cap). However, there are other options available to repair the damage, such as inlays and onlays. Read on to learn more about these restorations so you can weigh the pros and cons and make a more informed decision about your treatment options.
What's the Difference Between These Restorations?
When you get a crown, the entire tooth is encompassed by the restoration. To make room for the crown to fit, your dentist will have to remove a greater portion of enamel than he or she would with inlays or onlays.
With inlays and onlays, your dentist will only have to remove a portion of enamel, and only a portion of your tooth will be covered with a restoration.
Inlays and onlays are similar in construction; the main difference is that inlays mainly cover pits and fissures of a tooth while onlays cover at least one cusp of a tooth.
Which Option Is More Preferable to the Patient?
The goal of preventative dentistry is to preserve as much of your natural tooth structures as possible since no restorative material can beat the strength of your enamel. So if you have a case where either a crown or inlay/onlay would help, then an inlay/onlay might be a better choice since more enamel is preserved after the procedure. Plus, the longevity and prices of is similar between crowns and inlays/onlays, so the decision will really come down to your current health needs and your dentist's advice.
If Inlays/Onlays Only Cover a Portion of the Tooth, Why Can't You Just Get a Filling?
Fillings are only indicated for mild tooth decay. In fact, direct fillings tend to shrink in volume when they harden, so if you have a lot of decay, then the material will not have enough strength to hold over a greater area.
Fillings can be placed immediately at your dentist's office, but inlays/onlays are actually constructed at a dental laboratory first. While inlays/onlays are more expensive than direct fillings, the higher price point is because the restoration is more precisely contoured to your enamel and gums and will further protect against recurrent decay.
What Are Some Pros and Cons of Inlays and Onlays?
Again, the main pro of inlays/onlays is that more enamel can be saved compared to crowns. Different materials for inlays/onlays also have distinct advantages. For isntance, resin inlays/onlays have less micro-leakage, meaning that they can block bacteria and plaque. Some materials, like gold, have great strength and can last you years before replacement is needed.
The main downside of inlays/onlays is that they will need to eventually replaced, and if you suffer from bruxism, then the lifespan of these restorations can decrease dramatically. Inlays/onlays can be more difficult to repair than crowns if one does break, and your dentist may need to remove further enamel to replace the restoration. Also, compared to fillings, you will have a lengthier treatment time to get an inlay/onlay; however, treatment time is about the same for inlays/onlays as it is for crown placement.
Reach out to a dentist in your area today to learn more about these restorations and how to treat your tooth decay.