How to Properly Care for a Dental Inlay

When a cavity is too large for a traditional filling and too small to need a ceramic crown, a dental inlay is often seen as the preferred treatment option. As Dr. Garrick Lo of Redmond Parc Square Dental in Redmond, WA, explains, dental inlays are most often used on teeth with fractures or precarious tooth structure.

A dental inlay is a procedure in which the practitioner decides that the scope of the issue is beyond what can be remedied with a basic dental filling. To work properly, the inlay needs to be placed inside of the coronal structure of the tooth and cemented in place. As a dentist, Dr. Lo most often uses inlays to repair cavities that are too large for basic dental fillings. Dental inlays can be made of gold, reinforced resin, or plastic. They can also be made of ceramic or porcelain.

The proper care of a dental inlay or overlay – which is essentially just a larger inlay – is no different than the proper care of normal teeth. That is, patients who have inlays are expected to brush and floss regularly to maintain good oral hygiene. A well-made inlay or onlay is only as good as how well a person can keep it clean, assuming that all other factors are equal.

Interestingly, Dr. Lo says that some people have reported that fluoride can actually help extend the life of one of these dental restorations. Beyond making sure to drink fluoridated water and brush with a toothpaste containing fluoride, however, there is very little that a person can do to extend the lifespan of a well-made inlay or onlay.

Even in instances where a person has done nothing wrong, the chance still remains that an inlay may eventually fail. Just as crowns and dental fillings can fail over time, Dr. Lo says a patient who takes perfect care of his inlay may still need to get it repaired or replaced at some point in the future. This could have to do with a number of factors, including how much acid is in the patient’s oral environment, how well he takes care of his teeth at home, how much plaque is in his mouth, and how well the inlay was made to begin with.

The failure of a dental inlay can also come as the result of more complex factors, such as how a patient bites and whether his bite creates extra forces that cause undue pressure on the inlay. Although it may be difficult for a person to alter the way he chews, letting his dentist know about any unique quirks in diet or chewing habits before having an inlay or an onlay put on is always recommended. Otherwise, when it comes to caring for dental inlays, a patient’s best bet is to simply follow his dentist’s instructions and maintain good oral hygiene.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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