Using onlays to restore your smile



If you have a dental cavity that’s too large for a regular filling, but you don’t want a crown, an onlay could be the best option for you. Onlays, porcelain fillings, which are molded dental fillings that cover the tooth’s biting surface as well as filling in the area where a cavity was removed. When a dentist fits an onlay, they remove less of the tooth’s healthy structure compared to when they fit a crown. Also a inlays and onlays actually strengthen the tooth. An inlay covers the inside of the tooth, up to the cusps, while an onlay covers the cusps and sides of a tooth. Onlays are a more significant restoration, but severely damaged teeth can benefit from this option.

To fit an onlay, the dentist takes a dental impression of the jaw the tooth is located, and sends it away to a laboratory that makes the customized onlay filling. What’s more, once the cavity is removed, an onlay is placed in the area where the decay was eliminated and covers the tooth’s biting surface, while a regular filling is placed in the area where the cavity was taken out of the tooth surface.

Onlays and crowns cover the surfaces of teeth and help protect them from further decay, but onlays are more conservative treatments than crowns. The dentist only removes the decayed areas of the tooth to fit an onlay.

The procedure to fit an onlay usually requires two dental appointments. At the first visit, the dentist injects a local anesthetic into the gum to numb the tooth before drilling out the diseased areas of the tooth. They then take an impression of the tooth and send it to a dental laboratory that fabricates the onlay out of porcelain or resin, or sometimes it can be made out of gold. To prevent further decay while waiting for the finished onlay to arrive, the dentist applies a temporary filling into the tooth.

On the second visit, the dentist receives the onlay from the laboratory, bonds it to the tooth and checks that the patient’s bite (occlusion) to make sure it is correct. Between the two appointments, patients should brush with a soft-bristled brush toothbrush to keep the teeth and gums healthy.

Still, no matter what is recommended by the dentist, inlays generally are stronger than amalgam or composite fillings, lower in price than crowns, and most likely will result in less complications in the procedure.

Plus, aside from convenience, there are several advantages to having these procedures done in a single visit. Single visit restorations eliminate the need for additional appointments and injections, and your tooth is much better off not having a temporary restoration for two weeks.


The healing time

Recovery time for a dental inlay or onlay is about the same as with a standard filling. Recovery is often immediate, with any discomfort taken care of using over-the-counter medicines.

Risks and complications

The number of risks for onlays are very small. Many restoration procedures typically require local anesthesia and some people may have allergic reactions to the medication. Also, a very small number of people are allergic to one or more of the metals used in the inlay or onlay. In most cases, the dentist can use another material.

Some may experience increased tooth sensitivity or pain after undergoing dental treatments such as the removal of tooth decay and placement of on lays, fillings, or crowns. This can be worse for those with deeper fillings and more extensive work that needed to be done to restore the tooth. Nonetheless, though pain generally reduces after a few days of dental treatment. But those patients that feel pain should avoid hot, cold, and crunchy foods in the days following their appointments with the dentist.

There are also some people that after this treatment will have problems with bacterial infections. These are patients that have tooth decay removed and the tooth restored with inlays, onlays, or any other treatment face the risk of bacteria getting trapped and sealed within the tooth. A small group of patients will need to revisit the dentist for additional treatment if bacteria further damage the tooth.

Nonetheless, there is another problem that can occur, that of loosen of the onlays. That is onlays can come loose if the cement washes out or combines with saliva while it is being applied. After the procedure, it is important to brush, floss and visit the dentist regularly.