Dentists use various techniques to repair or replace worn, decayed, broken or missing teeth. And depending on the extent of the damage, your dentist will either perform:
- Direct dental restoration, which involves placing a filling in a prepared tooth cavity.
- Indirect dental restoration, which involves customized tooth restorations fabricated outside the mouth such as crowns, bridges, inlays and onlays.
What’s a dental inlay?
A dental inlay is a pre-molded filling made to fit the exact shape and size of your tooth cavity.
Inlays are used in teeth that have too much damage to be treated using a filling but not decayed worse enough to use crown.
Types of dental inlays
Dental Inlays were traditionally made from gold. But with time, alternative materials, namely porcelain and resin-based composite were also used.
Depending on the choice of material, inlays can either be tooth-colored or have metallic color.
Dental inlays, onlays, fillings, and crowns: what’s their difference?
Like fillings, inlays involve removing the decayed part of the tooth with a drill and filling the space. The difference between the two is how the space is filled.
With fillings, an amalgam or composite material is directly placed into the prepared tooth where it sets and hardens. It is a quick process that can be done in one dental visit.
As for inlays, the space is filled with a single, solid piece fabricated from a dental impression of your tooth. Inlays are more expensive than fillings and dental insurance hardly covers them.
For this reason, they are reserved for patients without insurance or those willing to pay the additional cost. And while both tooth restorations fill cavities, inlays are reserved for the larger ones.
When there is too much damage or decay in the tooth structure to be treated using fillings or inlays, onlays and dental crowns are used.
Onlays differ from inlays in that they cover the cusp of a tooth while inlays fit between the cusps.
Dental caries is also drilled out of the tooth and an onlay fitting the exact shape and size of the space is fabricated.
A dental crown, on the other hand, is more of a replacement than a repair. Once the cavity is removed, a tooth-shaped cap is placed and cemented on the tooth completely covering it.
Onlays require less tooth structure to be removed compared to dental crowns. Moreover, they are slightly cheaper.
How are inlays done?
The dental inlay procedure takes two dental visits. In the first visit:
- The area around the tooth to be treated is numbed.
- Dental caries is removed.
- The space is cleaned and prepared for the inlay.
- An impression of the prepared tooth structure is taken and sent to the dental lab.
- A temporary filling is placed on the prepared tooth to protect it while a dental technician fabricates your inlay.
In the second visit:
- The temporary filling is removed.
- Your dentist checks if the inlay is a proper fit and makes any necessary adjustments.
- The inlay is cemented into place.
The placement procedure of dental inlays is pain free and does not hurt.
This is because your dentist numbs the area first using local anesthetic to prevent you from feeling pain during the process.
Dental inlay cost
Depending on the material used and the size of inlay, dental inlays cost between $650 to $1200 per tooth.
Some insurance providers consider Dental inlays as major procedures while others classify it as basic care.
If your insurance cover considers dental inlays as basic care, it will reimburse you up to three quarter of the cost while if it is classified as a major procedure it will reimburse up to 50 per cent of the dental inlay cost.
For the correct estimate of the inlay cost, Discuss with your dentist. He will also be able to give you estimates based on your insurance cover.
How long do inlays last?
The lifespan of inlays depends on several factors, but you can expect an inlay to last at least five years. And with proper dental care and regular check-ups, they need not be replaced for 20 to 30 years.
- Filling Vs Inlay Vs Onlay Vs Crown(n.d) https://www.rsfdentist.com/our-blog/2016/12/1/filling-vs-inlay-vs-onlay-vs-crown-whats-the-difference
- What Are Dental Inlay and Onlay?(2017) https://www.globaldentalpro.com/2017/01/14/what-are-dental-inlay-and-onlay/