When your dentist discovers that you have structural weakness in a tooth, he or she may suggest that you get either an inlay or an onlay. An inlay or an onlay is ideally the same type of procedure used to make your teeth stronger, allowing you to restore the integrity of any tooth that's been physically damaged or subject to tooth decay.
An inlay is an implant that does not cover the entire tooth, but acts as a filler to damages that don't extend into the root. Though an inlay can be composed of amalgam, composite, porcelain, or gold, there are specific criteria that will help your dentist decide which filler to choose. Porcelain and gold fillers are required when damage is slightly more extensive and restoration needs to be strong enough to sustain biting and chewing. An inlay differs from a filling in that it's fabricated outside of the body, instead of hardening over a short period of time.
An onlay is composed of the same materials as an inlay, but more commonly uses porcelain or gold. Porcelain offers the advantage of strength, durability, and a result that looks cosmetically indistinguishable from a real tooth. Gold is used second often because it molds well, doesn't interfere with bodily functioning (being non-toxic), and can be appealing for cosmetic purposes. The onlay may be a traditional crown or a cap that includes a cusp-where replacement of missing cuspids are required to reinforce the damaged tooth.
Both procedures will give you a stronger and healthier-looking tooth, so when your dentist recommends that you get either an inlay or an onlay, be confident that your mouth will benefit. The advantage of having an inlay or onlay over a resin filler or enamel bond, are that discoloration over time is minimal.
The procedures differ by dentist, but will often be similar in price, due to the need for fabrication of your implant. You can expect to go to the dentist at least two times in order to have an inlay or an onlay implanted. If your tooth requires a root canal, it may take three. If damage extends into the root, where the nerve has suffered some decay, a root canal will be performed prior to implanting the inlay or onlay.
The first appointment you will have an impression made of the tooth, so that an implant can be made from the mold. The second appointment involves the procedure where local anesthetic, gas, or gentle sedation is used to insert the implant. If you aren't comfortable with dental procedures, you should opt for sedation, though overall, the process is minimally-invasive and painless. Afterward, you might experience discomfort in the tooth the night of the appointment, and possibly for a couple more days.
Both procedures only take a couple of hours to complete the day of the second appointment, so in no time you an greatly improve your chances of saving the damaged or decaying tooth. And because there is minimal pain or discomfort involved in either, they make for a relatively easy way to maintain and restore a healthy smile.