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Getting to Know Inlays and Onlays

Have you ever heard of a dental crown? This common treatment functions like a little cap, creating a protective cover for your entire tooth. But what if you only have a small amount of damage or decay on one part of your tooth? That’s when inlays or onlays come into play.

People often assume there are two options for treating tooth issues like damage and decay: a filling or a crown — or both. However, inlays and onlays offer a solution that falls right in between.

If you have tooth damage, Dr. Hannah Baek can offer personalized guidance on the best solution to correct it at Healthy Smile Dental in Woodridge, Illinois. Do you have cracks, decay, or other damage in a tooth? Here, we explain the benefits of inlays and onlays as a restorative treatment.

Inlay and onlay basics

Inlays and onlays share the same goal as other dental restorations — filling an opening in a tooth and protecting it from additional problems.

Dr. Baek can often use a direct filling made of amalgam or composite resin when treating a small area of damage. This provides the quickest and most effective solution for restoring a tooth’s strength and structure. 

If the damage runs deep or the tooth structure is more compromised, Dr. Baek usually turns to more comprehensive tooth protection, or a crown.   

However, sometimes a tooth issue causes damage too large for a conventional filling but not large enough to necessitate a full protective crown. That’s when a dental inlay or onlay provides the perfect fit to repair the damage and restore structure to the tooth.

How inlays work

If you have mid-sized damage within the inner part of a tooth or the area near its points — called cusps — Dr. Baek could suggest an inlay.

This dental restoration is a single, solid piece of enamel-colored ceramic or porcelain made to fit the precise size and shape of the damaged area in the tooth. She permanently cements it in place to create a tight, impenetrable bond that seals the tooth shut.

How onlays work

An onlay also corrects mid-sized damage in the central part of a tooth. Onlays come in the same material as well, made to the exact shape and size of the opening in your tooth.

However, an onlay stretches across a tooth’s chewing surface, making it the perfect fix for one or more damaged cusps. An onlay replicates your natural tooth shape and fits your bite flawlessly. 

Understanding the advantages of inlays and onlays 

There’s a reason why there are so many different types of dental restorations — there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, some cases work best for an inlay, onlay, filling, or full crown. However, there are advantages to treating mid-sized damage with inlays and onlays. 

Creates structural integrity

Because inlays and onlays use durable materials and an exact fit, they fortify the structure of your tooth to improve its strength and durability. Plus, this precise bonding process reinforces your tooth’s structural integrity, helping the restoration form a tighter, more supportive seal with your tooth.  

Produces long-lasting protection

It’s difficult to beat the long-lasting protection you can get from inlays and onlays. They both preserve a stronger, healthier tooth structure, which offers several benefits, like extending the life of your tooth and minimizing the risk of further damage and decay in the future. That adds up to fewer chances of needing additional dental treatments down the road.

Provides exceptional durability 

Another advantage of inlays and onlays relates to their durability. They create a more hardwearing chew surface than standard fillings, resulting in a longer-lasting restoration.

On top of that, inlays and onlays don’t contract over time like a filling might. That means there’s far less chance of a gap developing between the restoration and its surrounding tooth structure. 

Offers more natural-looking results

Early inlay and onlay restorations usually came in gold. However, modern inlays and onlays get custom-made to match the color of your tooth enamel. The result? Completely seamless, natural-looking results — so people only notice your smile, not your dental work. 

Do you have tooth damage that requires restoration? Find out whether an inlay or onlays could be the right choice to protect your oral health. Call 630-910-1900 or send Dr. Baek a message online to schedule an appointment at Healthy Smile Dental today.

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