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When more than half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged, a dentist will often use an inlay or onlay.
Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin. These pieces are bonded to the damaged area of the tooth. An inlay, which is similar to a dental filling is used inside the cusp tips of the tooth. An onlay is a more substantial reconstruction, similar to the inlay but extending out over one or more of the cusps of the tooth.
Without a doubt gold is the best restorative material that we use and it has, historically, been the material of choice for inlays and onlays. In recent years, advances in porcelain materials has become increasingly popular due to its strength and color.
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Inlays and onlays require two appointments to complete the procedure. During the first visit, the filling being replaced or the damaged or decaying area of the tooth is removed, and the tooth is prepared for the inlay or onlay. To ensure proper fit and bite, an impression of the tooth is made and sent to a lab for fabrication. A temporary will then be cemented on the tooth until the completed inlay/onlay is fabricated.
At the second appointment, the temporary is removed and Dr. Fialkoff, Dr. Lebowitz & Dr. Sparks will make sure that the inlay or onlay fits correctly. If everything looks good, the inlay or onlay will be cemented to the tooth and polished to a smooth finish.
Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As an alternative, inlays and onlays, can be more conservative than a traditional crown as it preserves more natural tooth structure. Inlays and onlays have the potential to last longer than traditional fillings and as long as a crown. In some cases, where the damage to the tooth is not extensive enough to merit an entire dental crown, onlays can provide a very good alternative.
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