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Composite (white) fillings are tooth colored dental restorations made of a glass and plastic mixture and they are a great way to restore decayed teeth in an esthetically pleasing way. Composite fillings belong to one of the most widely used procedures in esthetic and restorative dentistry. The color of the filling can so closely matched with the original color of the tooth that the final result is almost identical with the adjacent natural teeth. Composite fillings chemically bond to the teeth with a bonding agent, using a blue ultraviolet curing light. Composite fillings can wear out in a few years, so regular check-ups and if necessary replacements might be necessary in the long run. When composite fillings wear out, depending on the size of the cavity, your dentist might suggest that instead of fillings, inlays are placed in the cavity to restore the tooth to its fullest.
An inlay is similar to a filling, but it lies within the cusps (bumps) on the chewing surface of your tooth. An onlay is very similar, only larger than an inlay and covers part of the outer surface of the tooth. Inlays or onlays can be made of gold, composite resin (plastic) or ceramics.
Inlays and onlays are also called indirect fillings and they are similar to composite or tooth-colored fillings except they are made in a dental laboratory by a dental technician and usually require two visits before they can permanently placed to fill the cavity. Indirect fillings are a great way to restore severely damaged teeth, when not enough tooth structure remains intact to support a composite filling but the tooth is not so severely damaged that it requires a crown.
Benefits of inlays and onlays
There are some great benefits to inlays and onlays in comparison to fillings:
- Inlays and onlays are made of a very durable material or resin and they can last up to 20 years. (depending on the condition of the tooth, oral hygiene and other factors)
- Inlays an onlys can strengthen teeth by up to 75 percent, unlike traditional composite fillings
- When correctly done, inlays and onlays prolong the life of the treated teeth and prevent the need for more dental treatment in the future.
How are inlays and onlyas done?
Inlays and onlays are done using very similar procedures. After administering some local anesthtic, the dentist removes the old fillings, cleans the cavity and takes an impression of the tooth, which is then sent to the dental laboratory. You are sent home with a temporary filling or restoration that helps keep the treated tooth intact until your next appointment. The new inlay or onlay is made from the mold in porcelain, gold or composite resin material, based on recommendation of your dentist and on your personal preference. At the second appointment, your dentist will remove the temporary restoration and makes sure that the inlay or onlay fits correctly into the prepared cavity. The inlay or onlay then will be cemented to its place using a very strong an durable bonding agent. The inlay or onlay strengtenths the tooth and blends with the adjacent teeth to achieve a natural, pleasing appearance.