Cavities are caused by tooth decay. Your mouth contains natural bacteria. They feed on food particles that linger after eating and multiply quickly. As they eat, they produce harmful acids. When regular brushing and flossing are neglected, or certain areas of your mouth are overlooked, the acids begin to eat away at the enamel on your teeth. Small pits, or cavities, eventually form, which create hiding places for bacteria to live in. Left untreated, bacteria continue to destroy your enamel, and the cavities grow larger. Eventually, they can extend into the inner layer of your teeth and cause a serious infection. Fillings are a common solution to cavities, but depending on the size or location, they may not always be the best one. At National Dental Melville, we can offer you another solution – inlays and onlays.

What are Inlays and Onlays?

When you have a cavity, fillings are typically the go-to procedure. Whether we use amalgam fillings or composite resin depends upon your specific situation. However, traditional fillings are not always the best option. Cavities that are on the chewing surfaces of your teeth present unique problems. Fillings in these cavities can weaken the tooth and put it at risk for damage.

Inlays are designed to fill cavities that affect a single cusp of a molar. Onlays are used when the cavity affects multiple cusps. It is sometimes referred to as a partial crown and rebuilds the structure of the affected molar. Both inlays and onlays are meant to strengthen the tooth. They can be made from either composite resin or porcelain. Both materials blend into the natural color of your enamel.

Inlay and Onlay Placement Procedure

Inlays and onlays are what are known as indirect fillings. This is because they are fabricated and cured outside of the tooth, rather than being cured within the tooth. The procedure starts similarly to traditional fillings. After a local anesthetic, we remove the decay and clean the tooth. Then the procedure differs. After the tooth is cleaned, an impression is taken. This impression is sent to our lab, where the inlay or onlay is designed and milled. Because this process can sometimes take up to two weeks, a temporary inlay or onlay is placed until your permanent one is ready. When it is finished, we will then check it for fit and cement it into place.

Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays both have several benefits:

  • The materials used for inlays and onlays (composite resin and porcelain) both blend in with the color of your natural teeth. They are also free of metals and mercury.
  • Traditional fillings shrink upon curing in the cavity. This is not an issue with inlays and onlays. They are made on the outside of the tooth to be the perfect fit.
  • Unlike amalgam, they are not affected by temperature extremes.
  • Both inlays and onlays provide strength to your tooth, rather than compromising it.
  • They require less of your tooth structure to be removed.
  • They are less expensive and less invasive than crowns.

If you have a cavity, contact National Dental Melville today at (631) 816-2277 to find out if inlays and onlays are right for you.