Dental Fillings vs Inlays/Onlays
When a tooth has decay or “a cavity,” most people have learned that they will need “a filling” or “crown” to treat the decay. For many decades, silver amalgam fillings were the only available option for fillings. Recently, composite or tooth-colored fillings have gained popularity because they match the color of the tooth better.
In truth, both typed of fillings have limitations when the cavity is larger than ideal dimensions for a filling. A large amalgam filling may lead to a fractured tooth, while a large composite filling may debond or fracture leading to significant recurrent decay. This means that a new cavity develops under the filling. Either of these can lead to the need for root canal treatment or extraction of the affected tooth.
Many times, when a filling is not appropriate, a crown is recommended. This requires grinding down and removing more of your healthy tooth than is necessary.
At Rendezvous Dental, we feel it is vital to stay current on available dental materials and treatment methods. Many times, there is a better option available that most people are unaware of. This option consists of restoring teeth with zirconia or gold inlays or onlays instead of fillings or crowns.
Large, composite fillings in molar teeth, have a life expectancy of approximately five years. Crowns made of zirconia or gold have a lifespan of 15-20 years. Inlays and onlays are ideal in many situations because they can be the same size as a filling, but will last as long as a crown. This preserves more of your natural tooth than a crown while preventing the early failure and need for further treatment that is seen in large fillings.
When tooth decay is minimal often times composite restorations are used. In this procedure a tooth-colored filling material is carved and bonded to the teeth. More than a cosmetic enhancement, these restorations actually strengthen teeth by fusing together.
Advantages of tooth-colored fillings include the ability to:
- Replace leaking or old, worn mercury fillings
- Close minor gaps between teeth
- Create a more natural and attractive smile
- Repair decayed or broken down teeth
- Minimize the appearance of crooked teeth