The filling and covering of cavities is a mainstay of modern dentistry. In the past, cavities meant the complete removal of the tooth, but thanks to improved manufacturing processes for inlays and onlays, dentists do not have to resort to this extreme measure. The dentist merely removes the decayed parts of the tooth and replaces them with a covering.
Broadway Dental Clinic defines inlays and onlays as small porcelain fillings that cover the biting surface of the tooth. The major difference between the two is that an inlay covers only a small portion of the tooth, while an onlay is more suitable for a larger area.
Tooth Coloured and Invisible
Inlays and onlays are an alternative to full dental crowns. They are sometimes referred to as indirect fillings, as they are moulded outside of the patient’s mouth. They often require less tooth removal to attach them.
Standard dental fillings and crowns are made of a paste-like material that hardens after curing. The dentist drills away the decaying matter of the tooth and fills them. The dentist will often mould the surface manually, using handheld tools.
For inlays and onlays, the biting surface is moulded in the laboratory. To attach them to the patient’s teeth, the dentist shaves away the cavity, anchoring the inlay or onlay in place with a special adhesive. It is tooth coloured and practically invisible.
Accurate Computer Assisted Milling
Since inlays and onlays are manufactured in the dental laboratory, several visits are required to complete the process. The dentist may need to scan the biting surface to produce an accurate copy that mimics the original shape of the tooth.
Using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology, the lab technician mills a porcelain composite piece into an inlay or onlay. The milling machine, known as CEREC, reconstructs the tooth using ceramic materials.
One of the advantages of using inlays and onlays is that patients may enjoy complete stability, with minimal need for adjustment to the new biting surface. It is also aesthetically pleasing, as it blends in with the tooth.
Inlays and onlays are a good alternative to standard fillings. They are nearly invisible and more comfortable for the patient as well.