When a tooth is too damaged to support a tooth filling but not damaged enough for a dental crown, you end up somewhere in the middle. Capping a damaged tooth unnecessarily with a dental crown removes more tooth structure than needed. But a large dental filling can weaken the remaining structure of the tooth, causing the tooth to break, crack or eventually need a root canal.
When you're faced with the choice between a large tooth filling or a dental crown, do you save money now and risk major dental problems down the line or undergo possibly an unwanted dental treatment?
There is a dental restoration that can solve your problem: dental onlays. Dental onlays fall somewhere in between dental fillings and dental crowns. Like dental inlays, onlays restore large cavities without having to use a crown.
Dental inlays and onlays are the same kind of restoration, but they cover different proportions of the tooth. A dental inlay fills the space in between the cusps, or rounded edges, at the center of the tooth's surface. The dental onlay works like an inlay but covers one or more cusps or the entire biting surface of the tooth. Because of their extensive coverage, dental onlays are sometimes referred to as "partial crowns."
Dental onlays are more durable and usually last longer than dental fillings but, like any restoration, can still weaken the tooth's structure. The size of the filling and type of material you choose can help determine the life of your restoration. Depending on your budget and aesthetic needs, dental onlays can be made from gold, composite resin or porcelain.
If cared for properly, a dental onlay can last up to 30 years! Your best bet for preserving the life of any dental restoration is practicing excellent oral hygiene. Brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly will have a significant outcome on the success of your dental onlay procedure.