Dental inlays have been around for many years, but I the earlier days, they were made using a mixture of mercury and silver (amalgam) to fill the damaged tooth. The presence of mercury has made them very controversial.
There have been debates as to whether dental amalgam fillings leak mercury into the mouth and cause toxic health risks. While the opinions of scientists vary on the matter, the controversy has lead people to replace their old amalgam fillings removed and replaced with safer, more natural looking cosmetic inlays made from porcelain or ceramic.
A cosmetic inlay is also a good alternative to a dental crown, which often takes a lot of work done on the tooth. Ceramic or porcelain inlays work just like metal fillings, only without the unsightly metal sheen and the toxic risk as the new surface of the tooth is made out of a ceramic resin matching the tooth’s color, seamlessly blending in with the rest of the tooth.
With the filling resembling your natural tooth’s color, inlays offer more natural-looking results, while also protecting the tooth surface from bacteria build up and cavity formation. Moreover, inlays give teeth more structural integrity.
The second type of this dental restoration method is called a dental onlay. It works exactly like an inlay, only it covers more of the tooth.
Onlays are ideal for fixing more damaged teeth asthey extend to one or more of the tooth’s cusps, therefore treating decay that affects the greater surface of the tooth. Onlays are more recommended as a restorative method as it saves more of the damaged tooth than crowns do.
Benefits of Dental Inlays and Onlays
Not only do these dental restoration treatments help in treating dental decay—they also eliminate tooth sensitivity, while reducing the possibility of eventual tooth loss. They are also virtually invisible, creating a more natural look (unlike their metal counterparts).
More importantly, inlays and onlays do not contract or expand when subjected to temperature changes from hot or cold foods. The change in size, which usually happens in metal fillings can weaken the tooth and cause it to fracture.
Unlike other restoration procedures, having dental inlays or onlays installed requires less work on the tooth, therefore conserving more of the tooth’s natural structure. They also strengthen teeth up to 75%, using highly durable materials that can last up to 30 years—which is more than double than conventional fillings.
Most importantly, dental inlays and onlays prevent the need for more extensive and more expensive dental treatments in the future.