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Inlays and Onlays Restore Damaged Teeth

By Van O'Dell, DDS on March 23, 2017


Illustration of an inlay and onlayDental damage is one of the most common oral health problems. There are many factors that can lead to damaged or worn down tooth enamel, including decay, erosion, and traumatic injuries. Restorative dentistry treatments rebuild tooth strength by replacing damaged tooth enamel and restoring a protective shield around the delicate tissues at the center of the tooth. There are many restorative treatments available, each with its own unique applications.

Inlays and onlays are a middle-ground type of restorative treatment. These restorations can address larger areas of decay or damage than a dental filling, and can prevent the need for more aggressive dental crown treatment. Inlays and onlays are ideal because they allow patients to preserve much of their own natural tooth structure. Dr. Van O’Dell is happy to perform the inlays and onlays procedure at his North Little Rock, AR dental practice. These restorations allow us to rebuild a strong, healthy, and beautiful smile.

The Difference between Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays are two similar restorations. Both are often described as large fillings. They restore moderate to advanced cases of dental damage without completely reshaping the tooth, as is necessary when a patient undergoes dental crown treatment. However, both of these restorations are similar to a crown in that they are indirect restorations, meaning they are fabricated in a dental laboratory and then bonded to the affected tooth once they are crafted. The primary difference between an inlay and onlay is their size. Inlays are slightly smaller and are used to restore damage to the biting surface of the tooth. An onlay is larger and can address damage that extends to one or more of the cusps (or bumps) along the top of the tooth.

Inlays and Onlays Procedure

Whether a patient is in need of an inlay or an onlay, the procedure will be the same. The inlay and onlay procedure can be broken down into four basic steps: prepping the tooth, creating molds of the tooth, fabricating the inlay or onlay, and applying the completed restoration.

  • Prepping the tooth: Inlay or onlay treatment begins with the dentist cleaning the tooth to remove debris and damaged tooth enamel. This does reshape the tooth, but not as extensively as the reshaping that is done prior to dental crown treatment. Dr. O’Dell uses local anesthetic to ensure his patients remain comfortable while the tooth is prepped.
  • Creating molds: Once the affected tooth has been reshaped, Dr. O’Dell will create detailed molds of the treatment area. These molds are used to fabricate the inlay or onlay to ensure a close, natural, and comfortable fit. Once molds are complete, the tooth will be fitted with a temporary restoration that will provide protection while the final restoration is fabricated.
  • Fabricating the inlay or onlay: When the molds are complete, they are sent to a dental laboratory along with specific instructions regarding the size, shape, and color for the inlay or onlay. Dr. O’Dell has worked with the same dental laboratory for nearly 30 years, and they always deliver high-quality restorations that are a near perfect match to the patient’s natural teeth.
  • Application: The final step of the inlay or onlay procedure is the application of the finished restoration. Dr. O’Dell always tests the fit (and makes any necessary adjustments) before bonding the restoration in place with a dental compound. Once the inlay or onlay is in place, the compound material hardens to create a strong bond between the restoration and the tooth. This strengthens the natural tooth and ensures that the restoration will hold up to the wear and tear to which the teeth are exposed.

When inlay or onlay treatment is complete, patients will benefit from a stronger tooth that maintains a full range of oral functions while enhancing the appearance of the smile.

Schedule an Appointment

If you have a tooth that has been damaged by decay, erosion, or trauma, an inlay or onlay may be able to restore your smile. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Van O’Dell at your earliest convenience to learn more about this restorative dentistry treatment.

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