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West Bowmanville Family Dental Blog

What is the Difference Between Fillings, Inlays and Onlays?

If your dentist in Bowmanville detected tooth decay during your last exam, they will almost certainly have suggested restoring the affected tooth with a filling. However, there are several types of filings, depending on the size of the cavity, the damage to the tooth, and its location in your mouth.

Dental Fillings
Most people are familiar with ordinary fillings and which are made from amalgam or from a tooth-coloured material called composite resin. Here at West Bowmanville Family Dental, we prefer to use amalgam-free fillings that blend in beautifully with your natural teeth, so your filling is virtually invisible.

Composite resin is quite strong and durable, but it is only suitable for mending small to medium-sized cavities in teeth. It lacks the strength needed to restore larger cavities and where a significant portion of the tooth has been destroyed. This is when your Newcastle dentist might suggest an inlay or onlay.

Dental Inlays
Dental inlays restore larger cavities in the chewing surfaces of your back teeth, which are your premolars and molars. These teeth have lots of intricate grooves and fissures to grind food more efficiently. But, these fissures can be tricky to keep clean, trapping food and cavity-causing bacteria which is one reason why these teeth often have tooth decay. An inlay restores the middle part of the tooth but not the cusps, which are the ‘pointy’ parts of the tooth located on the inner and outer surfaces. If you have a larger cavity, you’ll need an onlay!

Dental Onlays
Just like an inlay, an onlay can mend a cavity in the central chewing surface of a back tooth. However, it also restores one or more of the tooth cusps, so it is quite a large restoration.

What are Inlays and Onlays Made from?
Inlays and onlays need to be stronger than composite resin and are made from polished gold alloy or from porcelain. A porcelain inlay or onlay looks fantastic, is extremely strong and is less noticeable than gold.

How are Fillings Made and Fitted?
Composite resin fillings are direct filings, meaning they are made directly in the tooth. All the decayed and damaged portions are removed, using a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable. Next, the cavity is prepared to ensure the resin will bond strongly with the tooth, and the material is applied in tiny increments. The colours selected will closely match your natural tooth. Your Clarington dentist hardens or cures the material using a special light before the filling is shaped and polished. It only takes a single appointment to complete treatment.

How are Inlays and Onlays Made and Fitted?
An inlay or onlay is an indirect filling, meaning it is made outside the mouth before being fitted and bonded in place. Your tooth is prepared using a local anesthetic, but we will need to take a dental impression. Hate dental impressions? Don’t worry as we use an advanced digital dental impression scanner here in Courtice to capture a precise 3D image of your teeth. No more goopy impression trays! The digital scan is used by our dental laboratory to create your new inlay or onlay which is fitted and bonded onto the tooth at your next visit. In the meantime, your tooth is protected with a temporary filling.

Fillings, inlays and onlays are all excellent ways to restore and protect damaged teeth so that afterwards, you can bite, chew and talk confidently. Composite resin fillings should last for several years, while inlays and onlays should last longer because the materials are more hardwearing and durable.


Sep 28, 2018 by
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