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Restorative Dentistry

Porcelain Inlays and Onlays

Porcelain inlays or onlays refer to indirect fillings made of porcelain that fit into (inlay) or onto (onlay) the affected tooth. Its purpose is to make the tooth stronger by holding it together while retaining a natural aesthetically pleasing colour. They are used in instances when there is deficient tooth structure to support a filling but the tooth is still in a condition that does not require a crown. Indirect fillings are similar to regular fillings with the exception being that they are made in a dental lab as opposed to being molded to shape in one’s mouth.

These fillings take two different forms: Inlays which fit into the space remaining after the decay has been removed and Onlays (partial crowns) which sit on the tooth and build up its shape. The advantages of Indirect fillings are that they are more durable than fillings lasting between 10 and 30 years. Whereas fillings have been known to reduce the strength of a tooth by up to 50%, Inlays and Onlays can actually increase a tooth’s strength up to 75%. They can be made from a variety of materials including porcelain, gold and tooth colored composite resin.

The advantage that Porcelain Inlays or Onlays have over gold inlays or onlays is its esthetic value. However it has the disadvantage of being more brittle and consequently more likely to break than indirect fillings made of gold material. Additionally porcelain has been known to cause accelerated wear of the opposing tooth as compared to gold. Receiving Porcelain Inlays or Onlays requires two visits to a dental specialist. In the first visit the decay of an old filling or cavity is removed and an impression is taken. This impression is used by a dental laboratory to create the indirect filling which is permanently cemented into place by the dentist.

Air Abrasion

Air abrasion also called “microabrasion” is a method of tooth structure removal considered to be an effective alternative to the standard dental drill. This new technique allows dentists to remove decay from teeth without using a drill. Using a fine, precisely controlled high pressure stream, the air abrasion system removes decay with ease and precision. Air abrasion uses the kinetic energy principle, in which particles bounce off the tooth and blasts the decay away

Air abrasion procedures are typically done using an abrasive particle stream of aluminum oxide (typically 20- 50 micron particles) driven by compressed air. The procedure is virtually painless which eliminates the need for an anesthetic injection. Air abrasion systems produce no vibration and no heat from friction. Because air abrasion cuts tooth surfaces with the utmost precision, it removes less tooth than the drill and it reduces the risk of enamel micro-fracturing. Air abrasion technology offers new alternatives for caries treatment as well as numerous other clinical restorative procedures.

The indications below represent the most common applications.

  • Cavity preparation
  • Remove defective restorations
  • Remove superficial discolouration


There are some treatments, like crown and bridge preparation, that still require the use of a dental drill. Air abrasion can't be used as an alternative in every procedure. Air abrasion procedures can leave an accumulation of harmless, dusty particle debris in the patient's mouth, resulting in a gritty feeling that is eradicated by rinsing.

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Indian Dental Association
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