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Basically, dental onlays are meant for treating tooth decay that has extended to one or more of the cusps. Both inlays and onlays are the same type of restoration, covering different proportions of the tooth. While an inlay helps fill space in between the cusp or the round edges at the tooth surface’s center edges, a dental onlay is used for covering cusps or the whole biting tooth surface. As onlays tend to offer an extensive coverage, dentists usually refer to them as partial crowns.

Why Onlays?

Just like inlays, onlays are highly effective in replacing damaged metal fillings. Dental onlays can also be used for eliminating tooth sensitivity as well as for preventing eventual tooth loss that is likely to result from decay. Being developed from tooth-colored materials, onlays are typically invisible.  Unlike inlays, onlays are more extensive and cover the cusps of the tooth being treated.

The good part about dental onlays is that they don’t need too much of that uncomfortable tooth reduction drilling experience, helping the dentist conserve a greater portion of the original tooth structure.  Known for their durability, onlays are developed from tough and hard-wearing materials that last up to thirty years. Dental onlays can be really useful in strengthening teeth by around 75%. Dental experts suggest that onlays can actually prolong tooth life while preventing the need for additional dental intervention.

About the Process

When patients make their first visit, the dentist works to shape the tooth and takes its impression with a temporary onlay being placed. The tooth’s impression is sent to the laboratory, where an onlay matching the patient’s tooth specifications is created. During the second visit, the temporary onlay is removed with the permanent onlay being positioned carefully over the patient’s tooth. As for the downtime, the patient may experience moderate tenderness in the treated region but the patient can resume regular activities right after going through the procedure.

Which Type of Onlays Would Your Dentist Choose?

 Your dentist has the option of using one of the two types of restorations. Direct restorations are restorations developed in a dental office while indirect dental restorations are prepared in a lab or somewhere other than the dental office.

Direct Onlays

This method starts with decay removal and the tooth being shaped. A soft material known as composite resin is positioned on the tooth, which is molded for fitting the tooth. The dentist cements the onlay to the patient’s tooth, which is then polished. The dentist may shape the onlay slightly for adjusting the way the patient’s teeth come together.

Indirect Onlays

This method also starts with decay removal and the tooth being shaped. Later, the dentist makes an impression of the tooth as well as its neighboring teeth. The dentist will give a temporary filling to the tooth and the impression is sent to a lab where the onlay is prepared.

During the second visit, the temporary filling is taken out and the tooth is cleaned. The onlay is cemented to the tooth. Then it is polished. The dentist may shape the onlay slightly for adjusting the way the patient’s teeth come together.