When tooth decay is severe enough to fracture a tooth, a filling can harm the tooth’s structural integrity. If you suffer from mild to moderate tooth decay, porcelain onlays and inlays may be an effective treatment option. Smaller than porcelain crowns but larger than dental fillings, onlays and inlays will provide your tooth with both functionality and strength, preserving more of your tooth’s natural structure than with a porcelain crown.

If you are seeking an effective way to seamlessly blend your tooth restoration with your natural smile, please call Arlington Dental Aesthetics at 703-527-1020 or South Riding Smiles at 703-327-7705 to learn more about dental inlays and onlays. Our experienced, LVI-trained cosmetic dentists welcome patients from throughout the Arlington and South Riding areas of Virginia.

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Patient Testimonials:

"I love these guys. They have being treating my family's teeth for the last 9 years and we love them. Very careful, easy to get an appointment, always on time and outstanding service! I highly recommend!!!" - R.F.

"Everyone was super nice and helpful and really made an effort to make me feel comfortable. They explained everything very thoroughly and in a way you could easily understand. If you are looking for a new dentist I would definitely recommend South Riding Smiles!" - E.H.

"South Riding Smiles is always prompt, efficient, and friendly! They are flexible and accommodating with their scheduling. The hygienists are thorough and professional, and all of the dentists are knowledgeable and have extensive expertise in their field." - S.K.

What are Porcelain Inlays?

A porcelain inlay is a versatile dental solution for replacing old fillings or restoring teeth when decay is present inside the tooth’s cusp. The porcelain inlay process usually requires two dental visits to complete.

During the initial visit, an impression of your tooth will be made. That impression will be used by a dental lab to create your customized inlay. While you wait for the completed inlay to be crafted, you will be provided with a temporary inlay. Once your final inlay has been finished by the lab, it will replace your temporary inlay during a second visit to our office.

What Is A Porcelain Onlay?

In situations where tooth decay reaches beyond the cusp of the tooth, a dental onlay is used to restore the tooth. The process for placing a dental onlay is similar to that of an inlay: an impression is made during your initial appointment and once your completed onlay is ready, you will come back to replace your temporary onlay with the final, porcelain onlay.

The difference between an Inlay and an Onlay

It’s easy to be confused by these two terms, but their difference is simple. An inlay has to be placed in the tooth’s chewing surface between the cusps. An onlay repairs damage that includes at least one of the cusps. You can think of the difference as an inlay being comparable to a filling, while an onlay could be thought of as a mini crown that only covers part of the tooth.

What are the Benefits of Porcelain Inlays & Onlays?

Porcelain onlays and inlays offer a number of benefits, including:

  • Strengthens the tooth
  • Durable, long-lasting restoration
  • Can be customized to blend seamlessly with your tooth’s natural color
  • Extends the life of the tooth by preserving more natural tooth structure than with a dental crown
  • Prevents further damage and costly treatments in the future
  • Restores the tooth’s structural integrity

How do onlays differ from crowns?

At Arlington Dental Aesthetics and South Riding Smiles we use onlays in lieu of crowns if possible. Porcelain onlays provide all the advantages of inlays when compared to typical amalgam fillings, and they are a more affordable alternative to a crown. To make room for a crown, it’s necessary to remove a portion of the healthy tooth on all sides and the top. The crown then covers the entire visible portion of the tooth. An onlay only replaces the decayed portion of the tooth yet is still invisible when looking at the tooth.

Candidates for placement of a Porcelain Inlay or Onlay

Whether a patient needs a filling or an inlay or onlay is a question of the amount of decay or damage. With large amounts of decay, placing a filling can weaken the tooth to the degree it will fail and eventually need extraction. That’s where an inlay or onlay would be the better solution. Plus, inlays and onlays can strengthen the tooth without the need for placing a crown over the entire tooth.

Why are Inlays superior to regular fillings?

Porcelain inlays are superior to traditional amalgam or composite fillings in many ways:

  • Inlays are more durable than regular fillings.
  • Inlays don’t require removal of as much of the healthy natural tooth as is required when placing a filling.
  • Inlays don’t contract and expand with hot and cold foods and beverages as silver amalgam does, so they don’t potentially crack your teeth over time.
  • In most cases inlays strengthen your tooth, whereas fillings weaken it.
  • Inlays can replace larger areas of decay without weakening the tooth, whereas overly large fillings can seriously weaken a tooth.
  • Porcelain inlays, like composite fillings, are not detectable on your tooth, unlike amalgam.

How Inlays and Onlays are placed

Whether you need an inlay or an onlay — remember, the difference is if the damage involves one of the cusps of the tooth or not — the procedure is the same. Preparation and placement require two appointments with our dentists at our Arlington or South Riding offices.

The first appointment is used to prepare the tooth. First, we remove all the decay from the tooth. We then take impressions and photos of the tooth to send to the lab for creation of your custom inlay/onlay. Fabrication usually takes about two weeks; in the meantime, we place a temporary restoration onto your tooth so that you can chew comfortably.

When your inlay/onlay is finished, you come back in for your second appointment. We remove the temporary filling and thoroughly clean the tooth. Next, we check the fit and color match of your inlay/onlay. The final step is to permanently cement it onto your tooth.

Is there any recovery after having an inlay or onlay placed?

Inlays/Onlays You may have some slight soreness after we initially remove the decay or damaged tooth material, although the soreness is likely the result of having your mouth open longer than you are accustomed to. Any soreness or aching is easily managed with over-the-counter pain medication.

When we place the inlay or only, you’re good to go and immediately use the newly repaired tooth. There isn’t any recovery to deal with.

How long do porcelain Inlays and Onlays last?

The lifespan of an inlay or onlay depends upon the health of the rest of the tooth, which is mostly up to you. If you’re diligent about your home hygiene, and you come see us at Arlington Dental Aesthetics and South Riding Smiles for your twice-yearly professional cleanings and exams, you can expect these porcelain restorations to last up to 20 or 30 years. They are that strong.

Do I care for Inlays/Onlays any differently than normal fillings or my natural teeth?

Inlays and onlays require the same home hygiene that you normally practice — brushing twice a day and flossing. In comparison to a crown, an onlay doesn’t demand special attention.

Call Today For Onlays & Inlays In Arlington or South Riding!

If you want to treat tooth decay or replace metal fillings while enhancing the integrity and appearance of your smile, please contact our office nearest you. If you live in the Arlington area of Virginia, please call Arlington Dental Aesthetics at 703-527-1020. If you live in the South Riding region, call South Riding Smiles at 703-327-7705.

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