Dental Onlay 1

Dental Onlay

Restorative dental care aims to help an individual achieve normal oral health, structure, function and comfort where decay or damage has occurred. While the goal to restore oral health, structure, function and comfort is of course paramount, an important part of restorative dental care includes rendering treatment that is necessary but not excessive. This is why there are many forms and types of restorative dental care, of which dental onlays is a part.

Dental onlays are essentially a step up from dental inlays, a type of indirect filling that is usually manufactured at a dental laboratory to exact specifications and then fitted, adjusted and bonded to the tooth by a dentist. Both inlays and onlays are considered to be a better alternative to metal dental fillings and crowns where tooth decay or damage is not too extensive, but whereas inlays are normally used for more minor restoration of cusp tips of a tooth, onlays are normally used for the restoration of the entire biting surface of a tooth. Dental onlays are stronger than metal dental fillings, tend to last longer than metal dental fillings, and can be more discreet than metal dental fillings as they can be made of porcelain that is matched to the shade of the patient’s natural teeth. They are also sometimes made of gold or resin, depending on the patient’s specific needs and desires and the location of the tooth requiring restoration.

Receiving Dental Onlays

As is the case with other indirect fillings and extensive restorations, the creation and installation of dental onlays requires two separate dental visits, usually several weeks apart. The first visit is to prepare the tooth and get the necessary information to manufacture the onlay properly. Preparing the tooth for the onlay normally requires that the area first be numbed with an injection of local anesthetic. Then the dentist will remove the decayed or damaged portion of the tooth using a dental drill. This helps to protect the tooth from further decay. An impression of the prepared tooth is then made with dental putty so that the onlay can be created in a dental laboratory to perfectly fit the exact tooth it is needed for.

During the time it takes for the impression to be sent to the dental laboratory and the dental onlay created and sent to the dentist, the prepared tooth is protected with a temporary cover or filling that will help to ensure proper function and comfort. Once the onlay has been made and sent to the dentist office, the patient returns a second time to have it installed. At this time the dentist will remove the temporary cover or filling and then fit the onlay to the tooth. The dentist will be able to make any necessary minor adjustments to ensure the onlay is able to function as intended, permitting the patient to bite down, talk and smile normally, prior to permanently bonding it to the tooth. Finally, the dentist will polish the onlay to ensure it is smooth and attractive.

Some Benefits of Dental Onlays

Where they are appropriate, dental onlays have some benefits over other types of dental restoration. They are easier to clean than a dental crown, less likely to stain or become discolored than a resin filling, will not shrink when bonded as some composite fillings do when they cure, allow for more natural tooth preservation than metal dental fillings or crowns, are stronger and more stable than metal dental fillings and are less expensive than dental crowns.

While dental onlays can clearly be a terrific option for dental restorative work, it is important to recognize that they do need to be properly cared for in order to function as well as possible for as long as possible. Unless a dentist instructs their patient differently, a tooth with a dental onlay needs to be cared for in the same manner as healthy, natural teeth, with daily brushing and flossing and bi-annual dental examinations and professional cleanings. This will help to ensure that a dental onlay maintains desirable structure, function and comfort for as long as possible.


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