Inlays and onlays: Why we think they beat metal
While amalgam fillings have been the go-to filling material for large cavities for decades, there is another choice.
- The main problem with amalgam fillings is the nature of the material. Because metal expands and contracts under pressure, and with heat and cold, amalgam fillings can cause cracks in your teeth, or gaps to form between the filling and the remaining tooth. Either case opens the door for bacteria and decay to sneak in.
- The secondary problem is amalgam fillings just don’t fit in with the rest of you. Dark and metallic looking, they detract from your smile.
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What are inlays and onlays
Inlays and onlays could be thought of as “internal crowns”. They are made from porcelain, and are designed to replace decayed tooth tissue, while preserving healthy tissue. They look natural, and they are a strong restoration capable of withstanding the pressures of chewing and biting.
What’s the difference between the two?
An inlay is essentially a custom made filling. Porcelain is often the material of choice, but composite inlays are also available. The cost of a porcelain inlay can be a factor in deciding between the two. Porcelain inlays are made in a dental lab, and are permanently cemented into your tooth.
Inlays are often a preferred alternative to amalgam fillings, because less healthy tooth structure needs to be removed in the preparation. They are also more conservative than crowns, are highly durable, and can last many years if cared for properly.
Onlays are used for larger restorations. An onlay is also made of porcelain and fabricated in a dental lab. It is used to repair inside the cusp, and often extends over one or more sides of the tooth.
Both inlays and onlays can be matched to look like your natural teeth.
Inlay / Onlay Decision Making Guide
Is an inlay or onlay the best restoration for you?
There are many factors to take into account when deciding which dental restoration material will be best for your individual case. The best way to find out what restoration is best for you is to talk to a dentist.