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an article by
Valentina Tkachenko
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Inlays and Onlays
Inlays and onlays, also called indirect fillings, are alternatives to traditional fillings when too much damage has been done to the tooth for enough structural support for a filling. The two procedures are often considered a middle ground between fillings and crowns, which have to most restorative capacity. The procedure requires one visit due to recently improved technology, consisting of removing tooth decay or a previous filling, making impressions of the tooth, positioning the permanent inlay or onlay, assuring proper fit, and cementing it into place. The difference between the two procedures is that an inlay repairs an area which lays within the cusps, or bumps, of a tooth whereas an onlay is a more extensive repair which covers one or more cusps (due to this fuller coverage, onlays are sometimes known as partial crowns).

These procedures are extremely durable and can usually last as long as five to ten years before needing replacement or repair in part because they weaken tooth structure much less than traditional fillings. Materials commonly used in inlays and onlays are tooth-colored composite resin, porcelain, or gold. An alternative to indirect fillings are direct inlays and onlays which require only one visit because the materials are prepared in the dentist’s office as opposed to a separate location. Usually direct inlays and onlays are used when more structural support is available for positioning the repair. Inlays and onlays are typically much more expensive than traditional fillings, but offer superior protection against any further decay or damage. Insurance usually covers, at least partially, the costs of such procedures, but a dentist is best suited for aiding the patient with decisions regarding treatment options.

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