If you have significant decay or have lost a part of a tooth, then a regular filling might not be enough to fix the damage. If you've had teeth crowned before, then you may have thought that your dentist would crown this tooth, too.However, your dentist tells you that you can have an onlay fitted instead. What is an onlay, and why does your dentist want to use one?
What Is an Onlay?
An onlay looks like part of a crown. It is moulded to the areas of the tooth that need to be covered and fits over them like a hard cap. It doesn't replace all of a tooth's surface, just parts of it.
An onlay doesn't affect the tooth as much as a crown in terms of preparation. For example, if you have a decay problem, your dentist will clear out the decay and create a mould for the onlay. Once the onlay is made, it is fitted over the gap left by the dental work to replace lost areas on the tooth.
If you were to have a crown instead, then all of the tooth would be drilled down. Your dentist basically turns the tooth into a post to hold the crown in place. The crown effectively replaces the whole tooth down to the gum line.
Why Does Your Dentist Want to Fit an Onlay?
If a tooth is damaged beyond a feasible repair, but you don't want it extracted, then a crown may be the most viable option. If the core of the tooth is strong and stable enough to hold a crown, then this is a common way to replace a tooth.
However, you hit a point of no return when you crown a tooth. The preparation work that needs to be done cannot be reversed — you can't have the crown removed later and go back to using your natural tooth. You'll either need a new crown or a different method of replacement, like an implant.
If the tooth is too damaged to be filled but not damaged enough to warrant a crown, then your dentist may feel that an onlay is a better solution. This preserves more of your natural tooth but gives you a viable repair that fixes the damage and maintains the tooth's integrity.
To find out more about how onlays work, how they are fitted and why this is a better option for your problem, talk to your dentist.Share
11 December 2018
As a retired dentist, I work with charities which visit developing countries and educate children about dental care. It gives me great satisfaction to revisit these communities and see how proud the children are of their efforts. I am acutely aware that good dental hygiene can help prevent a range of serious conditions when these children become older. I started this blog because it greatly distresses me that many people in Australia do not seem to care for their teeth as much as children in these poor communities. This is happening despite ready access to items like toothbrushes and toothpaste which are luxuries in the places I visit. It is my hope that this blog encourages you not to take dental health for granted. My greatest wish is that you can be as inspired as the children I see in my charity work. Please read on and enjoy.