Understanding Dental Restorations: Fillings, Inlays, and Onlays

When it comes to restoring your teeth after decay or damage, modern dentistry offers a variety of solutions. Among the most common are dental fillings, inlays, and onlays. Each of these restorative procedures has its unique application, and the choice between them depends on the extent of the damage and the location of the affected tooth. In this blog post, we’ll delve into these three dental restorations, comparing their use cases and the materials typically used.

Dental Fillings: A First Line of Defense

Dental fillings are arguably the most well-known type of dental restoration. When tooth decay has caused a cavity, a filling can halt the progression of decay and restore the tooth’s function and appearance. Fillings are primarily for small to medium-sized cavities.

In terms of material, dental fillings can be made from several different substances, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Amalgam fillings are durable and cost-effective, but they are less aesthetic due to their silver color. Composite fillings, on the other hand, can match your tooth color, but may not last as long as their amalgam counterparts.

Inlays and Onlays: A Step Further

Inlays and onlays are better choices when the tooth damage is too extensive for a filling but not severe enough to require a crown. These restorations are custom-made in a dental lab and then cemented into place during a second visit.

Inlays fit within the cusps (or bumps) on the chewing surface of a tooth, while onlays extend over one or more of the cusps. They offer a more conservative approach than crowns, preserving more of your natural tooth structure.

In terms of materials, inlays and onlays can be made from porcelain, composite resin, or gold. Porcelain inlays and onlays are popular for their natural appearance, while gold inlays and onlays perform better durability.

Comparing Dental Restorations

fillings vs inlays vs onlays vs crowns
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When comparing fillings, inlays, and onlays, it’s crucial to consider the extent of tooth damage, the location of the tooth, and personal preference.

Fillings are often the go-to solution for minor to moderate decay. Their application directly to the tooth happens in a single visit, making them a convenient choice. However, for larger cavities or for those that occur on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, inlays or onlays may be a better option.

While inlays and onlays require two visits and are typically more expensive than fillings, they offer superior fit, are better for larger cavities, and they preserve more of your natural tooth.

In the end, the best choice depends on your unique circumstances. Your dentist will guide you through the decision-making process, explaining the pros and cons of each option based on your specific needs.

Understanding the differences between dental fillings, inlays, and onlays can help you feel more informed and confident about your dental health decisions. If you suspect you may need a dental restoration, don’t hesitate to reach out to your dentist to discuss your options.

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