Inlays and Onlays have been around for centuries, and their popularity has only increased over recent years. In general dentistry, inlays and onlays have been a type of cosmetic enhancement, meaning that they are created from a single solid piece which fits into the exact size and shape of a particular tooth, and then permanently cemented into place within the jaw. Cosmetic dentists consider that tooth enamel becomes eroded or stained, as we age, and that these blemishes are usually impossible to remove with typical methods. Cosmetic dentists therefore use tooth inlays and onlays to fix these problems. But what exactly is an inlay?
In a nutshell, inlays and onlays (or dental fillings) are similar in function, except that in an inlay the filling is placed directly into the tooth. In this way the inlay serves a cosmetic purpose by improving the color and brightness of a tooth, and it can also be used to protect the surface of your teeth from damage, both external and internal. But an inlay can do so much more than make your teeth look better:
In fact, an inlay can act as a sort of preventive treatment, as it can help to repair small, visible, but deep dental flaws such as chips, breaks and worn down enamel. Cosmetic dentists often recommend that their patients choose a tooth-colored fillings, such as those based on gold or silver-coloured metals, to complement their natural teeth. Using gold or silver-colored inlays can help to conceal any small chips or cracks that could otherwise have been seen. And because tooth inlays can be made out of a wide range of colours, it is easy to change your look over time, moving from a bright smile to a more neutral one.
Another advantage of inlays is that they can be extremely restorative. In the case of a severely decayed tooth, or a tooth which has been damaged severely by root canal treatment for an infected filling, an inlay can help to fill the entire area, with new, restorative tooth enamel emerging through the top layer of old, damaged enamel, giving the impression of a brand new tooth. The procedure can be extremely effective for all kinds of dental problems, from badly damaged teeth to very badly damaged teeth: if you need immediate restoration for a badly decayed tooth, for example, a dental inlay may be the perfect solution. It’s also good to note that a dentist can always perform Inlays and Onlays at a more customized solution using a customized Inlay mould to fit your mouth, as well as using different materials for the Inlay itself, if that is what you require.
Of course, one of the biggest drawbacks of Inlays and Onlays is that they are not a permanent solution: as with veneers, there is no way of knowing how much Inlay or Onlays will actually ‘fit’ your mouth, until you’ve had them fitted. Naturally, for areas of the mouth that have naturally lost their natural tooth color, Inlays and Onlays may be a permanent answer: if you get them exactly right, they can completely replace the shade of your original tooth color, giving you a luminous natural looking smile once again. However, if you have a lot of teeth which have gradually lost their original color over the years, Inlays and Onlays might not be able to restore you to that state. In this case, it would be necessary to get porcelain veneers. Porcelain veneers are the perfect answer if you want to refresh your smile permanently, without getting bored by constantly having to change your tooth color: porcelain veneers are made to replicate the shade of your natural tooth color, while providing you with a totally natural look.
The application of Inlays and Onlays involves a very specific process: porcelain is first formed on the surface of your teeth, from a mold, and then porcelain is placed into the hollows created by the Inlays or the Onlays. If done properly, this process will leave a cavity behind: the Inlays or the Onlays will be bonded into the cavity left behind, until such time as the color of your tooth is restored. The application of Inlays or Onlays is also best carried out by qualified cosmetic dentists, who will either use instruments which are capable of applying Inlays or Onlays correctly or will carry out the procedure using Inlay Kits which is easy to use. In order to prevent further damage to your tooth, and to ensure that the Inlays and Onlays are the right colour for your teeth, it is advisable that you wear your protective shield during the application process.