A dental inlay is a partial crown that is typically recommended as a solution for cavities that develop in the center of teeth between their cusps. A dental inlay allows the dentist to treat such cases of tooth decay without having to use a crown.Installing a crown requires removing enamel from teeth, which permanently leaves…
Dental Restoration Options: Dental Inlays
Most patients know that a traditional filling is an option when they experience a cavity, but not everyone knows about the dental inlay. Depending on the severity of a cavity, a patient’s dentist may recommend an inlay over a filling.
How does a dental inlay differ from a filling?
Many patients with relatively small cavities have them treated with a filling — the decayed part of the tooth is drilled out and a specialized amalgam is then used to fill the space. This procedure can typically be done in the dentist’s office without any wait time. Fillings are quick and convenient, but they do have a downside. Most filling materials expand when exposed to heat and contract when exposed to cold, making it possible for them to cause cracks in the treated tooth.
When a cavity is very large, a regular filling makes cracks even more likely. On the other hand, a dental inlay is a treatment that can actually strengthen the tooth. Once the decayed material has been drilled out, the dentist takes an impression of the cavity. The impression is sent to a lab, where a dental inlay is custom-made. The inlay is then cemented into the affected tooth.
Because inlays must be made in a laboratory and then sent back to a dentist’s office, they are what is known as an indirect restoration. Other indirect restorations include crowns and onlays (which are essentially dental inlays that also re-create part of a tooth’s cusp). Traditional fillings are known as a type of direct restoration because they can be made and placed right in a dental office.
What are the advantages of choosing a dental inlay?
Ultimately, a patient and their dentist should together decide whether a dental inlay is the right restoration option. However, inlays do come with several distinct advantages.
They create a more reliable seal than fillings alone
While fillings are designed to permanently fill a cavity, there is still a chance that bacteria can get between the filling and the surrounding tooth. If this happens, there is a possibility that the tooth will begin to decay again. Dental inlays create a stronger seal that is more difficult for bacteria to permeate.
They result in a stronger tooth
Dental inlays are generally much stronger than fillings. People with dental inlays are able to chew food without worrying about the tooth breaking. Plus, because inlays do not expand and contract with temperature changes, they are less likely to cause cracking over time.
They look very natural
Dental inlays are made of specialized materials that are made to match the rest of the treated tooth. The result is a natural look that most people will not notice in the mouth.
Larger cavities present treatment challenges to dentists, but dental inlays are a reliable and long-lasting solution. Patients with larger cavities may want to make an appointment to determine whether a dental inlay is the right treatment choice.
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