Why Do We Do Inlays And Onlays? (processed white restorations by our lab)
A dental restoration is any material that restores a tooth back to full form and function. Most patients think of restorations as either fillings or crowns. A filling is placed directly and requires support from from an adequate amount of tooth structure for retention. A crown is made indirectly in a laboratory from a mold taken from an impression. A crown provides complete support for the tooth.
In some situations, there is not an adequate amount of tooth ot hold a filling with any degree of predictability. Also, it may not be necessary for a crown to completely support the tooth. Inlays and onlays are used mostly for situations when the restoration is too large for a filling yet a crown is not required to completely support the tooth. Inlays can also be done instead of a filling no matter the size if their superior qualities are preferred. Just as with crowns, inlays and onlays are fabricated in a lab off a mold taken from an impression. The final restoration has the ideal shape and contact with adjacent teeth and is stronger than any direct restoration material. All shrinkage of the inlay or onlay occurs in the lab and is corrected for in the cementation process. Large direct fillings suffer from some minor shrinkage when they are placed. This shrinkage enhances future breakdown and sometimes sensitivity.
Traditionally, inlays and onlays were made of gold and have mostly been referred to as gold fillings. This is one instance where a dental material used for more than one hundred years is still an excellent choice. However, a majority of the inlays and onlays we make are made of tooth-colored materials and can be bonded in place with state of the art adhesive dentistry. Studies show that teeth with bonded inlays or onlays have nearly identical strength to the original tooth. We keep up to date with the latest advances in dentistry through continuing education so that we can provide state of the art health care. We feel that the breakthroughs in adhesive dentistry and our attention to detail allow us to deliver the highest possible level of care to our patients.
Even in cases where an inlay or onlay is clearly better than a filling and more conservative than a crown, some insurance companies will only pay their "alternative benefit". They may say "If you can place an inlay or onlay, a filling could have been placed." Therefore, these insurance companies pay only for the cost of the least expensive procedure. Your benefit could be diminished to the equivalent of time the insurance feels is adequate for a silver restoration. As always, we continue to offer you the best treatment option available and we are proud of attention to detail.