What are Dental Inlays and Onlays?
Have you ever heard of an inlay or onlay? What about an anterior three quarter crown? Chances are you’re familiar with dental fillings and crowns, but what are inlays and onlays? Essentially, these restorations are a midway point between a more conservative filling and a full-coverage “cap”. Rather than covering your entire tooth, they only impact 2/3 to 3/4 of it.
Why do Onlays Matter?
Traditionally, dental crowns cover the entire tooth that’s visible above the gumline. They enclose your tooth like a protective shell or helmet, covering it all the way to the soft tissues. Crowns distribute biting pressure and reinforce weak teeth so that they don’t break apart any further.
But sometimes a crown is a bit excessive for some teeth. Such as those with large cavities that are too big to fill. Or teeth with only one side that is damaged. Since a dental filling isn’t strong enough to reinforce such a large space, most Mission Valley dentists automatically “jump” to the choice of a full coverage crown. But at Cassell Dentistry, we know there’s a more conservative alternative: inlays and onlays.
Inlays and onlays are lab-made fillings that go onto or inside of teeth, depending on which area of the tooth is compromised. They can be customized to specific teeth throughout your mouth and designed to blend in with your smile.
What Are They Made From?
Most of our cosmetic inlays and onlays are crafted from porcelain. Since dental ceramics can be matched to your natural teeth, they offer a low-profile appearance that other people won’t notice when you’re smiling or laughing. From time to time you’ll also hear about people getting gold inlays and onlays, but mostly on back teeth (since they aren’t visible.) Today’s durable ceramics provide the protection of gold with the added aesthetics of customized porcelain restorations.
“Three Quarter Crowns”
Dental inlays and onlays are often referred to as three quarter crowns, because of how they’re made and fitted to your teeth. Essentially, three quarter crown preparation is almost like getting a traditional dental crown. Your tooth is numbed, prepped, and an impression is taken for your restoration. You’ll wear a temporary filling or crown, then the permanent version is returned from the lab about two weeks later.
As lab-made fillings/partial crowns, inlays and onlays provide a tight seal against the healthy tooth structure. Their added integrity allows you to bite and chew with confidence, without putting the damaged tooth area at risk.
Perhaps you’re interested in getting a dental veneer, but your tooth is decayed. Instead of covering the entire tooth with a porcelain crown, a tooth-colored inlay/onlay can provide both reconstruction as well as aesthetic results.
Why Not Just Get a Crown?
Every dental restoration needs occasional updates. When it does, the tooth needs to be re-prepped and a new treatment applied. Each time, the restoration gets a little larger and your tooth shrinks a little more. With inlays and onlays, we can preserve as much healthy tooth structure for as long as possible.
Inlays and onlays are the step-up from a conventional dental filling, offering extra protection for weak teeth. But they don’t sacrifice otherwise healthy enamel for the sake of covering the tooth with a crown. Instead, they modestly progress your smile to the next best, more conservative restorative option. If they ever need to be updated at a later point in the future, they can be exchanged for another lab-made filling or upgraded to a dental crown.
Inlays and Onlays in Mission Valley
Cassell Dentistry is one of the few dentists in Mission Valley offering inlays and onlays, or modified three quarter crown treatments.
If you have a broken tooth and want the most holistic, conservative treatment approach possible, an inlay or onlay might be right for you. Contact our Mission Valley dental practice today to reserve an exam.