Cavities are a nuisance every patient wants to avoid. Luckily, in the event of one or more cavities, there are a number of restoration options available, from inlays and onlays to fillings and crowns. But what’s the difference, and when does one make more sense than another? Here’s your guide to inlays, onlays, and dental crowns.
Inlays and Onlays
When a decaying tooth is beyond the scope of a simple filling, but not quite severe enough for a full dental crown, a medium-level solution may be needed. Inlays and onlays reinforce an existing tooth in a process called indirect restoration. This means that, unlike a standard filling, inlays and onlays are crafted in a laboratory and later bonded to the tooth’s surface.
Whether an inlay or an onlay is appropriate will depend on the tooth’s level of decay. Inlays, as their name implies, fit snugly in the grooves between a tooth’s cusps, while onlays both fill these grooves and wrap over and around the cusps. Both inlays and onlays are long-lasting and are easier to clean than full dental crowns.
More of a tooth replacement than a repair, dental crowns are reserved for more intensely damaged or decayed teeth. After removing the existing tooth decay, a crown is placed over the entire tooth structure, preserving its shape, function, and appearance while protecting it from bacteria and further structural damage. Dental crowns are available in a variety of materials, including ceramic, porcelain, and gold or other metal alloys.
The More Conservative Approach
Unless a tooth’s decay or damage is severe enough to warrant a full dental crown, inlays and onlays are the way to go. As a conservative option, they preserve as much of the original tooth’s structure as possible while offering simple installation, strength, durability, and aesthetic consistency. And because inlays and onlays are tailor-fit in every case, the tooth will be easier to clean than one treated with a full-coverage restoration.
Our team at Denver Dentistry is committed to helping you make the best choice for your tooth restoration procedure, whether it be inlays, onlays, or dental crowns. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call 303.988.6118.