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Is There a Difference Between a Dental Filling and a Dental Onlay?
A dental filling should not be confused with an onlay. Fillings are materials that are applied directly on teeth with cavities, while onlays are restorations that are used to fix teeth with extensive damage. Onlays are typically used when a tooth has been too damaged to be restored with fillings, but the damage is not extensive enough to warrant a crown.
Using a crown to restore a tooth when one is not necessary means that the dentist will have to remove more enamel than needed. Teeth are shaved down before the installation of crowns to create a better fit for the crown. Using a dental filling to treat extensive tooth decay can lead to the tooth becoming damaged by the filling. Most dentists will recommend an onlay or inlay when the damage to a patient's tooth falls in between these two extremes.
How dental filling and onlays are used to restore teeth
Onlays have a counterpart called inlays that are also used when a filling or crown is not the right solution for a decayed tooth. Inlays typically rest inside a hole that has been created by decay, while onlays are placed on the top part of a tooth to rebuild its shape.
One of the main differences between a dental filling and onlays/inlays is the fact that fillings can typically be used to immediately treat a cavity, while getting an onlay/inlay typically takes a few weeks. The filling is directly poured on the tooth, so there is no need for extensive preparations besides the dentist removing decayed teeth material from around the area.
Onlays and inlays are made from an impression of the patient's tooth, and the process can take a couple of weeks. The dentist makes an impression of the patient's tooth by having them bite down on a mold. This leaves an impression on the mold, which is sent to a dental lab where onlays are made. The patient will need to come in for a second appointment when their restoration is ready so it can be bonded to the damaged tooth.
Onlays can be made from a variety of materials, like composite resin, porcelain or metals like gold. Porcelain and composite resin onlays tend to provide the best aesthetics, with onlays being the more affordable option.
Reasons to choose onlays
Here are the benefits of restoring decay-damaged teeth with onlays:
- Onlays can be color-matched with the patient's teeth, allowing repairs made with them to blend in
- Onlays can reduce teeth sensitivity
- It allows the dentist to save more of the patient's natural tooth structure and does not require the removal of as much teeth material as fillings do
- Onlays made from durable materials like gold or porcelain can last over 25 years
- Onlays can serve as a replacement for silver amalgam fillings
- It prevents the need for additional treatments in the future
- Onlays do expand and contract when exposed to extreme temperatures, like fillings
Fix your damaged teeth
Call or visit our St. George clinic to set up an appointment with our dentist if one or more of your teeth have been damaged by tooth decay.
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