Gum disease is usually caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. If plaque is not removed with thorough daily brushing and cleaning between teeth, gums become irritated and inflamed. The irritated gum tissue can separate from the teeth and form spaces called pockets. Bacteria move into the pockets where they continue to promote irritation. Left untreated, the process can continue until the bone and other tooth-supporting tissues are destroyed. The early stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. It often results in gums that are red and swollen and may bleed easily.
Dental inlays and onlays are used when there is not enough tooth structure to support a filling, but enough tooth remaining to avoid the need for a crown. Inlays, which are similar to dental fillings, are used inside the cusp tips of a tooth. Onlays require a more substantial reconstruction, similar to the inlay but extending out over one or more of the tooth’s cusps. Placing inlays or onlays generally requires a minimum of two dental visits, as the devices are custom-made to better match the inner workings of each individual patient’s mouth.
Dental inlays and onlays are most commonly used to repair decaying teeth that do not require extensive bridgework. The devices are also used to replace older metal fillings. Most dental inlays/onlays are composed of porcelain, though some are made using gold or composite resin. Porcelain inlays/onlays tend to be more popular (even when compared to other types of dental fillings), as they are highly unnoticeable and provide patients with a more natural look and feel.
The placement of dental inlays is a relatively easy dental procedure and typically requires just two office visits. The first visit consists of obtaining a tooth impression, which is then sent to a dental lab where an exact mold of the tooth area is created. A temporary inlay is put into place at this point. The second visit involves completing the inlay by replacing the temporary inlay with the permanent one.
There are many benefits that come with the installation of dental inlays/onlays. One of the most important benefits is the fact that customized, bonded inlays/onlays do not leave room for bacteria to enter the tooth area. Since the devices are so closely adhered to the tooth, the possibility of future decay is greatly diminished. Unlike metal fillings, which can contract and expand with different food temperatures, dental inlays/onlays are not affected by hot or cold food temperatures. In addition, unlike metal fillings, dental inlays allow for the preservation of a larger amount of a patient’s natural tooth. When metal fillings are used, a larger portion of the tooth must be removed in order for the procedure to be successful. Another great benefit involves the strength provided by dental inlays/onlays. The devices are so well made that they can actually increase the strength of a tooth; thus, helping to prevent future tooth breakage or loss. Moreover, dental inlays/onlays last significantly longer than other types of dental fillings. As a result, the need for future upkeep or reparative dental work is greatly reduced.
Most patients who receive dental inlays/onlays do not experience a high level of pain- generally only minor discomfort. In fact, in most cases, patients can return to normal daily activities immediately following the procedure.
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