Except that it covers the missing pieces or cusps of the tooth in question, laying on top of them, instead of bridging a gap within a tooth, thus lying within the tooth, as is the case for an inlay. This is for when an entire chunk of the tooth is missing.
All of the benefits of the inlay are also present in the onlay. This type of dental treatment is referred to as indirect restoration and covers both inlays and onlays.
An onlay is an option where the tooth itself is conserved, but otherwise a crown would be needed to make sure the tooth does not get further infected, and the preparations needed to make the crown would actually eliminate the cusps of the tooth. All indirect restoration techniques involve materials such as porcelain or gold, and are fabricated outside of the mouth of the patient. Of the materials used, gold has a better track record, but the trial isn’t actually fair; gold has been used for a much longer time then porcelain. The surgical porcelains used in dentistry can now last just as long as gold.
Dental inlays and onlays are usually made in dental laboratories, and time is a factor in the making of the actual dental work, so patients are first fitted with a temporary structure, which is replaced by the permanent one shortly. The porcelain inlays are virtually invisible, as they are the same color as your tooth. Porcelain and gold are not subject to the same changes in texture and shape that amalgam is, and will not change enlarge or decrease in size, thus discomfort is minimized. Sensitive teeth can be made much less sensitive, as there will be a barrier of material between the nerve and objects that are around in your environment, or temperature. This is because dental inlays and onlays can actually strengthen the tooth, by as much as 75%. And the most important thing about indirect restoration is that, unlike with crowns or important, this treatment allows you to keep as much of your tooth as possible.
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