It’s always best to adopt a healthy oral hygiene routine, but if damage due to tooth decay does occur, you have several options to treat it, depending on the extent of the damage. Some common methods for treating damaged teeth are with fillings and inlays and onlays.
Probably the most well-known dental solution for damage to teeth (i.e. cavities), fillings restore teeth by “filling” in spaces left by tooth decay. They are also used to repair cracks and broken areas in teeth as well as areas that have been worn down.
Fillings are the best choice for minor damage to the tooth. The procedure takes just one or two visits to complete, during which the dentist removes the decay, cleans the tooth, and fills it with the restorative material, which can be made of amalgam (silver), composite resin, or porcelain.
On the other hand, if the damage has gotten more extensive than a filling can take care of, dental inlays or onlays may be the answer instead. Made from materials such as gold, tooth-colored composite resin, and porcelain, inlays and onlays are used to treat the tooth’s chewing surface.
Inlays are used to cover the space in between the cusps, at the center of the tooth’s surface. Dental onlays cover one or more cusps or even the entire biting surface of the tooth; they are required when the damage is greater and because of their extensive coverage, they’re sometimes referred to as a “partial crown.” Both are alternatives to a dental crown if the damage isn’t extensive enough to require one – capping a tooth unnecessarily could remove more tooth structure than needed.
The procedure for both inlays and onlays normally requires two visits. During the first, the damaged area of the tooth is removed and an impression is made of it so that a custom filling can be created in a dental laboratory. A temporary sealant is applied to the tooth until the next appointment. During the second visit, the temporary sealant is removed and the inlay or onlay is fitted onto the tooth. Once it has been fit properly, the inlay or onlay is permanently bonded to the tooth’s surface.
If you are in need of dental restoration, talk to your dentist about which solution would work best for you.