For those dealing with damaged teeth or tooth decay, a dental inlay is a way to restore the structure of a tooth. As an alternative to a standard metal filling, this indirect filling is an option that looks and feels more natural. A trip to the dentist can help identify which teeth may benefit from an inlay.
Effective solutions for dental health
Patients with damage to their teeth or who need additional protection for decaying teeth can benefit from restorative dentistry. Inlays are repair options for teeth that have been weakened from cavities, have experienced tooth decay, or have been chipped or broken from trauma or injury. Traditionally, patients receive metal fillings to treat cavities. However, not everyone is comfortable with this method and some prefer an option that does not rely on a mixture of metals.
Composition of dental amalgams
When evaluated by weight, almost 50% of a standard dental amalgam is elemental mercury. These fillings also include a mix of copper, tin, and silver. These elements are mixed into a putty, then placed inside a pre-drilled and shaped tooth cavity. On the other hand, a dental inlay is generally created from porcelain or composite resin and formed directly to fit with the problematic tooth.
Longevity of fillings
With a traditional filling, a patient may expect it to remain in place for seven to 20 years. The lifespan depends heavily on the size of the filling, where it is located, and the level of dental hygiene that is maintained. Apart from a gold filling, inlays tend to have a longer shelf life due to the porcelain composition. On average, inlays can last for 15 years or longer, though good oral hygiene is still an important part of this timeline.
Durability of inlays
Compared to their traditional metal filling counterparts, an inlay is considered highly stable and durable. Over time, a metal or composite filling may shrink and lead to additional work needing to be done. An inlay will not shrink, and it is more protective of the remaining natural tooth. The process preserves as much of a natural tooth as possible, making it easier to clean the teeth. Inlays are also less likely to cause tooth discoloration.
Conditions recommended for inlay placement
Teeth that require extensive repair or that have suffered severe structural damage are not generally recommended for inlays. Patients with teeth where the damage has not extended past the center of the tooth make good candidates for the treatment, as are patients who experience cavities that are too large for a normal filling to repair.
A dental inlay is fitted just inside the top edges of a damaged tooth. It covers the decay and establishes a boundary of protection against further decay. The inlay is custom-fitted to the specific tooth and colored white to match the rest of the teeth. A strong resin binds the inlay to the tooth, and the inlay is polished to present a more natural look.
Left unaddressed, tooth decay or damage could lead to greater oral health concerns. Patients needing restorative dental work should speak to a dentist about inlays and other treatment options.
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