If your tooth is so decayed to the point that filling isn't possible, your dentist might suggest inlays and onlays as the best option to restore your teeth. Minor cavities are usually solved using filing, while most cavities are addressed with a dental crown. What about cavities that are neither mild nor severe? Dental inlays and Onlays are your tooth's new best friend. If you think that inlays and Onlays are best for your dental treatment, schedule an appointment with our Lomita, CA Washington Dental clinic, and let's help you restore your oral health.

Overview of Dental Inlays and Onlays

Most people know the names of several dental prosthetics like veneers, crowns, and implants but don't know what inlays or Onlays are. The terms inlays and Onlays derive their names from their location. Here is a closer look at these two types of dental restoration.

Definition of Dental Inlay

Dentists opt to use dental inlays when a tooth is extensively damaged and cannot support regular filing, and doesn't have enough strength needed for a crown. An inlay is usually placed on the tooth's chewing surface between the cusps.

Sometimes inlays are referred to as indirect fillings since they are created at a dental laboratory and then placed at the dental office. Dentists usually prefer inlays made out of porcelain since they are invisible on the tooth than the composite resins.

Definition of Dental Onlays

Dentists opt for dental onlays if you have extensive dental damage. Onlays fall between large fillings and crowns. They are used when the damage doesn't involve the chewing surface but on one or more cusps of the tooth. Onlays are widely preferred since patients can use them to save a tooth and strengthen it without using a crown.

Difference Between Inlays and Onlays

You might be wondering what's the difference between inlays and onlays. Inlays are molded and fitted at the chewing surface of a damaged tooth. They make an imprint of the affected area. That's why they're sent to a laboratory for manufacturing. An inlay fits perfectly into the hollow space of the tooth, but they don't affect the cusps.

When a dentist takes the impression, they usually try to match the tooth's color as much as possible. That's why it's not easy to notice the inlays once they are placed in the mouth. The materials used to make inlays can be porcelain or composite material that are stronger and durable than the traditional fillings. Therefore, the inlays are generally expensive but are pretty long-lasting.

On the other hand, onlays are used for decayed or damaged tooth's cusps and the biting surface. As discussed above, dentists usually prefer dental Onlays for extensively damaged teeth that cannot fit standard amalgam fillings.

Onlays shore up the strength of the tooth by protecting the decaying area. Unlike inlays, this area can include the cusps or space in between it. Onlay preparation is similar to the procedure used in a dental filling.

The process involves drilling the cavity and cleaning up the area after numbing the mouth. Your dentist will then place a temporary onlay over the cavity to make an impression that's sent to the laboratory for manufacturing.

Onlays are also made out of porcelain and composite material. Dentists can refer onlays to as "partial crowns" since they serve a similar function as crowns, although they only cover a portion of the tooth as opposed to the entire tooth.

Candidates for Inlays and Onlays

Simply put, candidates for inlays and onlays usually have too much damage for a traditional dental filling but not enough damage to warrant a crown. To be eligible for inlays or onlays, you must have sufficient tooth structure to support the restoration. If you want your dental health to last for a long time, you should have as much tooth structure as possible. Therefore, if feasible, these two types of dental restoration are more conservative than a dental crown.

Patients opting for this type of tooth restoration should be committed to practicing good healthy oral hygiene habits. It's crucial to brush twice a day, floss once a day, and attend regular dental visits.

Simultaneously, not everyone is a suitable candidate for inlays or onlays. For instance, if you have a large cavity, your dentist will recommend a crown instead. A dental crown fits over your entire mouth and is suitable for strengthening and protecting it from further damage.

The Advantages of Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and Onlays are more comprehensive in dental restoration than dental fillings. Apart from that, there are several significant advantages of these two types of dental restoration. Here are some of the benefits of using them that you should know about.

Conservative Restoration

Inlays and Onlays are more conservative means of dental restoration than dental crowns. With them, dentists can preserve more of your tooth's natural structure compared to the amount of tooth structure removed in a dental crown.

Provides Added Strength and Durability

Dental fillings are usually made of composite resin or amalgam, while inlays and onlays are more commonly crafted from porcelain. Porcelain's durability can last up to twenty to thirty years if you take proper care of it. On the other hand, composite resin lasts for only five years.

Guarantees a Natural-Looking Result

Inlays and Onlays are usually used to replace old and worn-out amalgam restoration. Porcelain can be shade-matched to blend with your neighboring teeth, which beautifully mimics the sheen of your enamel. Porcelain is also stain-resistant, meaning that you can feel confident that your restoration remains bright and vibrant for a long time.

A Cost-Effective Restoration Process

Most dental insurances cover inlays and onlays treatment. This helps you save part of your income and use it to cover other crucial expenses while you maintain your perfect smile. Although inlays and onlays are more expensive than fillings, their longevity makes them worthwhile investments. It also helps you address your dental decay and damage issues early enough and maintain the integrity of your smile.

A Less Expensive Restoration Process with Better Margins

Dental restoration procedures like amalgam fillings expand and contract as the temperature fluctuates, which can fracture or weaken your tooth. Small cracks and breaks usually harbor bacteria and can lead to tooth decay. Porcelain inlays and onlays don't change in size and shape while placed at varying temperatures. Their strong structure makes them a more suitable solution in the long term.

Capable of One-day Dental Restoration Visit

Some dentists can restore their patients' teeth using the inlays or onlays in a single visit if they use CAD/CAM technology. The system combines computer software, a 3-D scanner, and an in-office milling unit. Therefore, you will spend less time in the dentist's chair than in other dental restorative procedures.

Easy to Take Care Of

There is no more significant difference in taking care of your inlays or onlays with how you take care of your natural tooth. You will still have to brush or floss regularly and schedule regular dental visits as well. If your inlays or onlays are painful, loosens, cracks, or fall out entirely, you should contact your dentist as soon as possible and schedule a visit. 

No Staining

Inlays and Onlays don't stain while compared with composite resin filling or silver amalgam. Silver amalgam usually creates a permanent dark spot on your mouth, which is noticeable by other people.

Procedure for Inlays and Onlays

Your dental inlay and onlay procedure is performed in a dental clinic or office. The procedure varies according to the type of tooth that you will use. In most cases, inlays or onlays placement processes involve a two-day visit process that is as follows:

Cleaning and Preparation

Your dentist will use a unique dental instrument to remove parts of your tooth that are decayed and damaged. The dentist will then numb your tooth using local anesthesia to guarantee your comfort during the procedure. They will try to be conservative in this process to preserve as many natural teeth as possible.

Creation of the Tooth Impression

Your dentist creates a mold or impression of your tooth by placing a dental putty over the prepared tooth. The dentist will then send the putty to the dental laboratory for the inlays or onlays fabrication.

Restoration of the Temporary Tooth Placement

Your dentist can opt to place a temporary filling that protects your two appointments. The temporary tooth placement protects your tooth from the entry of bacteria, which can lead to tooth decay.

Second Cleaning and Preparing

Your second visit starts with a second cleaning and preparation of your tooth. Your dentist will remove the temporary filling and fit the inlays or onlays in place.

Fitting and Bonding of the Restoration

Your dentist must ensure that your inlay or onlay is a perfect fit before bonding it with the dental cement. If the fitting is right, your dentist will expertly polish it until it smoothes like your natural teeth.

Same Day Inlay and Onlay Procedure

Your dentist can suggest CEREC inlays and onlays as your restoration process if they offer same-day restoration services. This procedure allows you to complete the entire process in one visit. It also avoids the temporary filling process and to wait in between appointments. Here is an overview of what you should expect during a same day restoration process

  • Your dentist will start by cleaning and preparing your tooth and taking a digital impression of your smile. An image will
  • Depending on the model, the dentist will make your onlay or inlay using a specific computer software that’ll send the impression to a milling machine
  • The ceramic onlays and inlays will be made right in the office as you wait. The milling machine will shade and match them with your smile
  • The onlays or inlays will be fitted and bonded once it fits perfectly

Types of Inlays and Onlays

Patients can choose their inlays and onlays based on the materials used in their making. They can choose from gold, composite, and ceramic. Here is a closer view of these materials.

Gold Inlays and Onlays

In the past, gold was the most common choice of material for inlays and onlays due to its strength and extreme durability. Nowadays, with the introduction of tooth-colored restoration, gold dental restoration has become less common.

Nowadays, gold inlays are commonly used in cavities that have repeated fractures. However, composite and ceramic inlays might be used for aesthetic reasons, although they are more prone to damage. The advantages of gold inlays include stain resistance, meager chances of fracture, high strength, and malleability. On the downside, gold inlays don't blend with the natural teeth, and they are more expensive than other materials.

Ceramic or Porcelain Inlays and Onlays

Ceramic inlays and onlays are porcelain-made. In dentistry, porcelain is used to create a tooth restoration that mimics the color, shape, and function of natural teeth. Some of its advantages include:

  • Durable and strong material
  • Doesn't fracture like a traditional filling
  • Blends well with your natural teeth
  • Stain resistant

Some of the downsides of inlays and onlays are as follows:

  • There is a risk of fracture when placed under constant pressure
  • More fragile than gold

Composite Resin Inlays and Onlays

Composite inlays and Onlays are used to fill cavities that are too large for traditional fillings. They are suitable alternatives to gold and ceramic restorations. Some of the benefits of using this material include:

  • Stronger and less prone to fracture than traditional fillings
  • They are tooth-colored, meaning that they blend well with your natural teeth

On the downside, composite resin inlays and onlays are weaker than gold, less malleable, and stain-resistant. 

How to Prepare for Inlays or Onlay Procedure

There are no specific preparation instructions that you need to adhere to when you're about to undergo an inlay or onlay procedure. However, making the right choices helps you improve your comfort and outcome. The following are crucial steps that you should consider while preparing for your inlay or onlay restoration process:

  • Prepare to answer all the questions about your medical history and medications. This includes all your prescriptions, herbal treatment, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins. It's recommendable to carry a list of all your medications and list all your medical conditions and allergies
  • Prepare to take your medications as instructed
  • Tell your dentist if you're pregnant

You should also arm yourself with relevant questions that you should pose to your dentist to ease your restoration encounter. Dental inlays and onlays procedures are stressful and can make you forget some of the common questions you should ask your dentist. Below are some of the questions you can ask your dentist?

  • How long will the process take?
  • What are my options for my inlay and onlay materials?
  • What restrictions do I have after the procedure? When can I resume working, eating, and other activities?
  • What medications do I need before and after the procedure?
  • How will I treat my pain?
  • How can I contact you?
  • Do you accept payment through insurance?
  • When should I make a follow-up with you?

What to Expect After Inlays or Onlays Procedure

It's crucial to know what to expect to prepare adequately for the inlay or onlay procedure. It also helps you resume your everyday life as soon as possible. Some of the things that you should expect are as follows:

Physical Experiences After the Procedure

Your gum, tongue, and entire mouth might feel numb a few hours after the dental inlay or onlay procedure. This might be as a result of the local anesthetic that takes time to wear off.

Your gum might also feel as if it's tender, and your tooth may be more sensitive to cold and heat more than usual.

Your tooth's sensitivity might last for a few days or weeks after the procedure. Inform your dentist if the symptoms worsen or continue for more than a few weeks since it can be a severe complication.

What You'll Experience After Going Home

You'll probably be allowed to go home and resume your normal activities as soon as the dental inlay or onlay procedure is completed. However, your dentist can ask you to wait for a while before you eat or drink something until the local anesthesia wears off, and you can feel your tongue and mouth again.

When you Should Call Your Dentist

Ensure that you maintain your follow-up procedure after the restorative procedure. Even so, you can call your dentist if you have any concerns between the appointments. Some of the experiences that should prompt you to call your dentist include:

  • Pain in your gums
  • Problem chewing or biting
  • Fever
  • Pain in your teeth or gums

Seek immediate medical care if your tongue swells, you experience breathing difficulties, itching, or hives. Shortness of breath, labored breathing, difficulty breathing, and wheezing might result from an allergic reaction to the anesthesia used.

Maintain Your Regular Dental Routine

There's no new life experience that comes with inlays or onlays. You still have to maintain your daily dental care, including brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing regularly. Inlays and onlays wear and tear with time, but most of them have a long life and can last up to thirty years. Try visiting your dentist at least twice a year to ensure that these restoration procedures last for a while and work well.

Potential Risks and Complications of Inlays and Onlays and Their Remedies

It's uncommon to experience any complications with your dental inlays or onlays. However, any procedure has potential complications that can be serious at some time. Complications usually develop during the dental procedure or recovery. Some of the potential complications include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Anesthetic complications like injury to the nerves or blood and allergic reactions
  • Expansion and shrinking of the composite inlays or onlays which can lead to their damage
  • Decaying of the tooth if the sealant is damaged or wears off
  • Injury to your gum or mouth

You can also experience sensitivity to cold or heat in the affected tooth. This occurs when your inlay or onlay damages and exposes your tooth's nerve's ending.

There are several ways that you can reduce the risk of complications. This includes:

  • Following all lifestyle, dietary, restrictions, and recommendations made before and after the inlay or onlay procedure
  • Informing your dentist if you have a possibility of pregnancy or nursing
  • Notifying your dentist as soon as you notice pain, fever, and persistent difficulty when chewing
  • Taking your medications as instructed
  • Telling all the members of the dental clinic about your metal allergy

The Cost of Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays average at $250 to $1,500 based on several factors. These factors include the following:

  • Whether the dentist is experienced or not. Experienced dentists have high fees that reflects their experience and training
  • Your location
  • The teeth that are being worked on
  • The type of materials used in this process
  • The size of inlay or onlay

How to Choose the Best Inlays and Onlays Services

Finding a new dentist is frustrating. Although it's easier to rely on online reviews, it can be challenging to distinguish between honest and dishonest reviews. Continue reading and learn how you can choose the best inlay and onlay services, and save yourself the frustrations of choosing the wrong service provider.

Look for Referrals

Your friends and family members are easier to trust than online reviewers. Family members can provide relevant dentist referrals since they have the best interest in mind. They also have first-hand experiences with their dentists, making them a suitable source of reference.

Check Whether the Dentist is Experienced

Experienced dentists have the highest chances of producing the best results. Therefore, ensure that your dentist is experienced. You shouldn’t be a test subject for an inexperienced dentist. After all, it's about your dental health that we're talking about. Ensure that the dentist you choose qualifies in offering inlay and onlay services, plus all other dental services you might need.

Find a General Dentist Near Me

If you are interested in inlay or onlay services, please feel free to call our Washington Dental clinic in Lomita, CA. We have experienced general dentists who are dedicated to ensuring that all our patients achieve the best smile. Contact us at 310-326-5183 to schedule an appointment with us today, and let's help us restore your smile.