Dental Inlays 1

Dental Inlays

Tooth damage and decay can be mild or extensive, and it can affect either a small part, most or all of a tooth. The type of restorative treatment a dentist chooses to use therefore depends upon what is necessary to restore normal tooth structure, function and comfort. Dental inlays are one form of restorative treatment that can be a better alternative to crowns or standard dental fillings when the damage or decay is located within the cusp tips, or most prominent parts of the tooth.

How Dental Inlays Work

Damage or decay that occurs in the cusp tips of a tooth can obviously affect the structure, form and comfort of the tooth. That said, while the damage or decay is considered more extensive than what can be successfully handled with a dental filling, it is not often considered to be so extensive as to necessitate a full dental crown. A dental inlay will often be used to restore structure, form and comfort where one or two cusp tips are affected, whereas a dental onlay will often be used to restore structure, form and comfort where the entire chewing surface of the tooth is affected. Dental inlays can be made from gold, porcelain or composite resin, and are generally far more durable than composite or amalgam dental fillings though less expensive than dental crowns.

Unlike dental fillings that are created in a dental office, dental inlays are uniquely created in a dental laboratory and then bonded to the surface of the tooth they are repairing. This procedure requires two separate visits to the dental office, one for preparation and impression-taking, and one for installation and adjustment. During the first visit, the patient will have the decayed or damaged portion of their tooth removed so as to prepare it for the inlay. Then, the dentist will create an impression of the prepared tooth to send to the dental laboratory. Porcelain is often recommended as it can be matched to the patient’s tooth color, in which case the dentist will determine the shade of the patient’s teeth and send these specifications to the dental laboratory.

While waiting for the dental inlay to be created and installed, the patient will have a temporary restoration placed in their mouth in order to protect their tooth from further damage or decay and to allow them to experience normal, comfortable tooth function. Once the inlay has arrived, the dentist will install it in the patient’s mouth, ensuring that it fits properly and comfortably before permanently cementing it into place. Some small adjustments can be made as needed, and the dentist may recommend one or even a couple of follow-up visits to ensure that the inlay continues to fit well and comfortably.

Benefits of Dental Inlays Over Metal Dental Fillings

There are actually many benefits of choosing dental inlays over metal dental fillings. First of all, dentists can preserve more of the patient’s natural tooth with a dental inlay, as they need to cut out more of a tooth in order to successfully install dental fillings. Second of all, dental inlays that are made from porcelain can be undetectable in the mouth, fitting in well with the color of the natural teeth around it. Third of all, dental inlays do not change size when exposed to hot or cold foods or beverages the way that metal dental fillings do, which reduces the possibility of them causing harm to the patient’s teeth. Finally, dental inlays are more durable than metal fillings, and so can last longer for the patient.

Taking Proper Care of Dental Inlays

Any restorative dental work must be cared for just as well as one cares for their natural teeth. This means that teeth with dental inlays should be brushed and flossed every day, and should receive a professional dental examination and cleaning at least once every six months. With proper care, dental inlays can remain functioning and comfortable for many years, working just as well in the patient’s mouth as their healthy, natural teeth.


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