Dental Inlays: When Your Cavity Has Grown Too Deep For A Filling
You might tend to forget about a cavity after it's been filled. The decayed portion of the tooth has been removed, and then replaced with the filling material, and as far as you're concerned, that's the end of that. But sometimes decay can continue beneath the confines of the filling, meaning that a more comprehensive solution is needed.
The Limits of Fillings
There's a limit to the coverage that a dental filling can provide. They're generally reserved for superficial breaches of your dental enamel, with more extensive decay needing a more extensive restoration. If your increased sensitivity and discomfort in a treated tooth leads you to have the matter investigated by your dentist (and it definitely should), it can be disheartening to be told that the tooth has continued to decay beneath the filling. So, what's next?
Too Big for a Filling
It's not as though a dental filling is the last resort. It's more likely to be the first resort. So you don't need to worry that your dentist will extract the tooth, which only happens in cases of extreme deterioration—decay that is far more advanced than in your particular case. However, since the cavity may now be too significant for another dental filling to handle, you'll need another option, and restorative dentistry has got you (or rather the decayed portion of your tooth) covered.
A dental inlay offers greater coverage than a filling while being less comprehensive than a dental crown, which is utilized when the entire tooth will benefit from being encased in a protective shell (and you haven't reached that point yet). An inlay usually requires two visits to your dentist. During the first visit, the problematic filling will be taken out, and your dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth. A mold is then taken of the tooth, encompassing its precise contours.
Fitting an Inlay
The inlay can then be manufactured. It will fit over the cavity, and extend into its depths, completely filling and protecting the space. Inlays are designed to fit within the cusps of your teeth, but when greater coverage is needed, you'll receive an onlay—which uses the same principle, while being slightly larger (extending beyond the cusps of the teeth). Inlays and onlays can be tooth-colored porcelain, but when the tooth in question is a molar, your dentist may recommend a gold or metal restoration—since these materials are stronger than porcelain, and a molar must withstand a significant amount of bite pressure.
If a cavity re-forms beneath a filling, it's not the end of the road for the tooth (unless you delay treatment, and the tooth then becomes unsalvageable). Extractions and even dental crowns don't need to be considered at this point, when an inlay (or an onlay) will be able to restore your tooth back to working order.