Dental restorations are sometimes made outside of the oral cavity, and the most common example of these would be a dental crown or a dental bridge. However, there are other, less invasive restorative options available: inlays and onlays.

Think of an inlay or an onlay as an intermediary between a direct restoration, and a crown. They’re fabricated outside of the oral cavity but fit onto the surface of the tooth as a direct restoration would. 

You probably have a lot of questions, but don’t worry – at Pearl Dental, we do our best to educate patients about their condition and curate treatment plans to best suit our patients’ wants and needs.

Direct Restoration Versus Indirect Restoration

The name probably gives it away: a direct restoration is made inside of the oral cavity. The most common example would be a direct amalgam or composite filling. A dentist prepares a tooth surface to receive a direct restoration in a single visit.

An indirect restoration, on the other hand, is made outside of the oral cavity; and takes at least two visits to the dentist’s office. During the first visit, your dentist takes an impression of the oral cavity for complete fabrication in a laboratory. During the second visit, the restoration created in the lab is then cemented onto the prepared tooth surface.

Choosing Between A Filling And An Indirect Restoration

A tooth that has been damaged or decayed would eventually require a restoration. However, whether that restoration is a direct one or an indirect one depends upon the following factors:

  • The extent of damage or decay
  • Remaining tooth structure
  • Status of the supporting structures
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Previous dental history
  • Oral hygiene habits
  • Opposing occlusal forces

If a tooth is damaged or decayed beyond a reasonable extent – that is, the damage wouldn’t allow a filling to hold up inside of the cavity- an indirect restoration is typically recommended.

Direct restorations and dental fillings are often selected for minimally damaged cases, where there is enough natural tooth support to keep the filling firmly inside of the cavity.

In other instances, an indirect restoration is recommended if you’ve already received a direct restoration, but still have recurrent decay.

Inlays Versus Onlays

Break the words down: in-lay, and on-lay: onlays are larger than inlays and are more invasive. An inlay is an indirect restoration that rests inside of the tooth structure, and are mostly limited to pits and fissures – that is, deep within the confines of the tooth. An onlay, on the other hand, is an indirect restoration that rests on the tooth structure. They’re placed over the cusps of the tooth.

Another key difference between the two is their ability to withstand the forces applied on a tooth by an opposing tooth. An onlay has greater load-bearing capacity than an inlay.

Both inlays and onlays distribute occlusal stresses over their surface to keep the damaged teeth from additional stresses.

Smile with Pearl Dental

Dental treatment plans aren’t straightforward – there are several treatment options available. While it might sound daunting, our team at Pearl Dental will guide you through the entire process, help choose the perfect option for your case, and answer any query you have throughout the way.

Questions about inlays and overlays?

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