If you’ve just returned from a dental exam and you were told about a number of treatment options that you should consider, chances are your head is spinning.
Gentle Family Dentistry in Bakersfield, CA is ready to help you navigate the sometimes-confusing world of dentistry!
Let’s talk about the basics first.
A filling is the most basic dental restoration. An inlay is used when the cavity is too large for a simple filling. An onlay is more than an inlay, but not quite a crown. A crown is considered more of a replacement tooth than a repair, and an implant is the most involved restoration when your tooth is beyond saving.
So, what’s the lineup between a dental filling vs. the inlay?
In theory, these two can often be used interchangeably, but inlays are typically reserved for much larger cavities.
With an inlay, the space is filled with a single, solid piece that is usually fabricated in a lab, although they can sometimes be made in-office, and they are typically made out of a material like gold or ceramic. The inlay must be made precisely to the shape and size of the empty space, otherwise food and bacteria will enter the space, resulting in further decay.
The upside to an inlay is that they do not contract to the same degree as a filling after being placed, so there is less chance of the restoration failing for that reason, or creating a gap between the filling and the surrounding tooth structure. Inlays also create a tougher and theoretically more durable surface for use when chewing, and as such, an inlay should be more reliable long term, although the data on that is mixed and inconclusive.
And what about onlays vs. crowns?
These two are reserved for larger areas of decay where a filling or inlay won’t work due to the amount of tooth structure that must be removed. The primary distinction between an onlay and an inlay is that an onlay will cover a cusp of the tooth, whereas an inlay only fills the area between the cusps. The cavity is still drilled from the tooth, and an onlay is fabricated to the exact size and shape of the space. Conversely, a crown will cover the entire biting surface of the tooth, as well as the tooth structure above the gum line.
If you still have questions about the right treatment plan, make an appointment today with Gentle Family Dentistry in Bakersfield, CA to learn which option is best for you!