A large cavity that is not treated can cause the tooth to become more susceptible to further damage. Sometimes a tooth will need to be protected with a crown in order to prevent more breakage later. There are times, however, when a full crown is not necessary, but the affected area warrants more than a traditional filling. Inlays and onlays are used in these instances. Here are a few things you may want to know about them.

The Difference between Inlays and Onlays

The bumps on the chewing surface of posterior teeth are called cusps. When a cavity is contained within the area between the cusps, an inlay is used to fill it. When the cavity involves one or more of the cusps, an onlay is used.

The onlay is also called a partial crown. This is because it does not cover the tooth the way a dental crown would do. It covers a significant area of the tooth, but not the entire tooth.

Aesthetics of Inlays and Onlays

Traditional inlays and onlays were made of gold. They were constructed to fit into the prepared space and cemented into place. Gold is a bio-compatible material for most people, and it can withstand the chewing pressure exerted on the teeth.

Today, inlays and onlays can be made from materials that match the natural tooth color. Ceramic or porcelain are often used, and these materials can be bonded to the tooth. The bonding process seals the inlay or onlay to the tooth. It can also improve strength while maintaining the natural look of the tooth.

Choosing an Inlay or Onlay Over a Crown

The decision to use an inlay or onlay over a crown is not always easy. A thorough examination of the tooth and its integrity is necessary in order to make the determination. Some cavities can be large and still leave enough viable tooth material making either the inlay or onlay sufficient. Others may require significant removal of tooth structure. In these situations, a full crown may be necessary in order to protect the remaining structure.

Your dentist will decide after studying the tooth structure. Diagnostic x-rays may be used to help make the determination. Saving your natural tooth and keeping it strong is the primary objective. For more information about porcelain inlays or onlays in New York, call Sutton Advanced Cosmetic Dentistry.