Dental onlays are a restorative option for decayed tooth and are different from dental inlays, which typically cover the center of the tooth, in that they cover a more extensive area of the tooth, often one or more cusps or the whole biting surface, and as such, are sometimes also called partial crowns.
When are Dental Onlays Used?
Dental onlays are best suited in situations where your tooth is damaged badly enough not to support a dental filling; however, it has still not reached a stage where it requires a dental crown. So you are basically stuck in the middle and need to make a decision between going for large filling which can do further damage to the tooth structure, or opt for the more expensive option of a crown, which is not really required at this stage and will require shaving your tooth structure unnecessarily. This is where dental onlays come to your rescue as a middle path and help restore tooth damage due to large cavities.
Fitting dental onlays usually require a couple of visits to the dentist. The first one is to assess the damage to the tooth, decide the best course of action, and preparing the damaged tooth to receive the onlay by removing any decay. Once this is done, the dentist will take impression of your tooth structure to be sent to a dental lab for preparing a customized inlay. This process takes a few days and in the meantime, your dentist will put a temporary filling in your tooth to save it from damage.
You will also need to decide, depending on your budget and aesthetic needs, the material you want used for preparing your onlay. You have a choice between gold, composite resin, and porcelain. Generally, gold is suitable for back molars, and porcelain is best in case the damaged tooth is a part of your smile line as it offers the most natural look. Resin is the perfect choice for those who have a misaligned bite or are given to grinding or clinching their teeth often (Source: www.yourdentistryguide.com).
Your second visit takes place when your onlay has been prepared to the specifications. The dentist will first remove the temporary filling in your tooth, and then proceed to fix the dental onlay onto it. Your dentist will then check your bite and make any minor adjustments needed, and remove any extra cement in the margins.
Single Visit Restorations
While usually indirect dental onlays are prepared in labs and thus require a second visit to the dentist, it is also possible to prepare these inlays in the dentist’s office and get them fitted in one visit only. These onlays are termed as direct dental onlays and use advanced CEREC 3D computer imagery and other high-tech equipment to produce porcelain onlays right on the spot. The dentist does all this by taking a picture of your damaged tooth and designing and preparing the onlay by using these machines while you just relax and wait for the onlay to be fitted.
Advantages of Onlays
- Does not require shaving the healthy part of tooth as in the case of a crown.
- Strengthens and protects weak tooth structure.
- Less expensive than going for a crown.
- Can be made to resemble your natural teeth in color and shape and offers higher aesthetic value.
- Highly stable restoration option for tooth decay, can last for many years if cared for properly.
Disadvantages of Onlays
- More expensive than dental amalgam fillings.
- Prone to damage and fracturing if biting instructions are ignored.
Maintaining your Dental Onlays
You need to care for your onlays the same as you do your natural teeth. Regular brushing and flossing the teeth is recommended. You need to be careful not to bite hard objects to prevent the onlays from getting fractured. Avoid grinding your teeth as it may also cause damage to your onlays.
Cost of Dental Onlays
Dental onlays are, as said before, a middle path and while they are costlier than tooth fillings, they are less expensive than getting a dental crown. The cost of the procedure also depends on your choice of dentist, your location, the type of material used for preparing the onlay, the location of damaged tooth, and the size of onlay.