127 Village Drive, Suite 100
Belgrade, MT 59714

Inlays and onlays are restorative dentistry treatments used to protect decayed teeth. Similar to dental crowns or tooth fillings, the goal of inlays and onlays is to restore the integrity of the affected teeth. However, situations commonly arise where a typical filling isn’t enough coverage and a crown is too aggressive. That’s where inlays and onlays do the trick – they’re more substantial than a filling but not as intrusive as a crown, making them the optimal solution.

At River Rock Dental Group, our skilled dentist and team of dental professionals will help you determine the best restorative dentistry procedure for your needs. Patients across the Belgrade, MT area have trusted our comprehensive dentistry services since 2004, so you can be confident that the care you receive is of the highest quality. Schedule an appointment with us today to get started!

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What is a Dental Inlay?

Dental inlays are used to fill in cavities located between the teeth and on the chewing surface of molars. Dentists typically choose inlays when a traditional filling won’t properly strengthen the tooth and the cavity itself needs more durable materials to reinforce. Made from either porcelain or composite materials, dental inlays are tougher, longer lasting, and more attractive.

Also deemed a conservative approach, inlays aim to preserve more of the healthy tooth structure compared to fillings. They’re an especially great solution for those with minimal to moderate tooth decay that extends into a flossing area between two teeth. Inlays are custom fitted to ensure strength and stability, whereas amalgam fillings can expand and contract with temperature fluctuations, which may lead to cracking.

What is a Dental Onlay?

Onlays are made from the same materials as inlays, but the only difference is that they cover a greater surface area. Onlays envelop both the surface of teeth and the cusps for optimal decay protection. Dentists choose onlays when the tooth decay doesn’t require an aggressive approach. As a result, tooth reshaping isn’t necessary and more of the natural structure is preserved.

Although onlays don’t cover as much of the natural tooth when compared to crowns, they are custom fitted for each patient. Since they cover a greater surface area than fillings, onlays strengthen the affected tooth and protect it from further damage. Additionally, onlays are sometimes referred to as “partial crowns” because they serve a similar function with less coverage.

The Restorative Dentistry Procedure

It’s important to note that inlays and onlays aren’t “better” than fillings and crowns. Each restorative treatment best applies in particular situations. Although every treatment is similar in nature and purpose, the procedure for inlays and onlays consists of more steps over two visits, which include:

  • Preparing the damaged tooth. Just as for fillings and crowns, your dentist will administer a local anesthetic, then drill away the cavity and clean the area.
  • Impression. Next, your dentist will create an impression of your mouth so that the inlay or onlay is properly fitted. Additionally, they aim to match the color of your natural teeth so that the permanent fixture isn’t as noticeable.
  • Temporary restoration. While the permanent restoration devices are fabricated at a dental lab, it’s important that the decay be covered. The dentist will place a temporary inlay or onlay that will protect your tooth in the interim.
  • Permanent restoration. During the second appointment, your temporary fixture is removed and the permanent restoration device will be applied in its place. The dentist will check for proper fitting and inspect your bite to ensure no problems arise.
  • Bonding. Once fitted, the permanent inlay or onlay is bonded onto the tooth and polished to match the surrounding structures.

Inlays and onlays can last several years, depending on how well you care for them. Since the restorative devices blend with the surrounding structures and are therefore easier to clean, it’s important to have a solid oral hygiene regimen in place to prevent further damage. Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, use floss, and rinse with mouthwash. Certain habits, such as grinding or clenching your teeth, can weaken the bond, so discuss your options with your dentist if you’re concerned.

Visit Our Belgrade Dentist Today

If you’re experiencing heightened sensitivity or pain in certain teeth, don’t hesitate to contact our Belgrade dental clinic. Our experienced restorative dentist, Dr. Timothy R. Lund, will assess your situation and provide adequate treatment, whether that be a filling, crown, inlay, onlay, or another type of specialized care. When you visit our dental office, our friendly team will provide quality comprehensive dental care to every member of your family. Schedule an appointment today to get started!

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