Dental cavities are the result of gradual tooth decay. As time progresses, cavities grow in size, develop infections, and if left unabated the cavity will cause tooth loss. A common treatment for cavities is the removal of the decaying tooth matter and filling it with either an amalgam or resin compound. Yet, there is another option that can protect teeth and strengthen them.
What is an Inlay An inlay is a premolded filling fitted into the grooves of a tooth and don't extend over the cusps of tooth. The patient is numbed using a local anaesthetic and the dentist drills the tooth to remove and clean out the decay in the tooth. This is one of the restorative methods used to repair a tooth after it sustains harm from injury or decay that doesn't affect the cusps of the tooth.
The dentist takes an impression and sends it to a laboratory where the inlay is made. Inlays are manufactured from porcelain or composite resin material matching the colour of the tooth, and provide almost invisible dental restoration while repairing the chewing surface. Dental inlays are generally more durable than regular fillings made from composite or amalgam, and gold inlays are the most durable and the most expensive of the materials available.
How an Inlay Differs from an Onlay or Filling An onlay is a method used to repair a tooth that has more extensive damage affecting the cusp or tips of the tooth, or potentially the biting surface. The dentist will numb the patient with a local anaesthetic and will drill the tooth to clean out the cavity, remove any decayed tooth material and insert a temporary dental onlay, while sending off the patient's impression to the laboratory. A week or so later the permanent onlay arrives, and at the next visit the dentist removes the temporary onlay and fits the final dental onlay in its place.
Benefits of Inlays While traditional fillings can stop decay from proceeding, they can cause a tooth to become weakened. The weakening can occur because amalgam fillings do not bond to teeth. As their name suggests, they simply fill areas where the decay formerly existed.
Conversely, inlays are bonded to teeth and the result is stability to the chewing surface and strength to the entire tooth. In terms of tooth preservation, functionality, appearance, and improved strength, inlays are consistently the better option over amalgam fillings.
An inlay is likely to be recommended instead of a regular filling if the damage to the biting surface matches these criteria: