June 27, 2017

Q: Is it a wise choice to replace white fillings with porcelain inlays?

Hi Doctor, I have white fillings in 5 of my molars. Will it be better to replace them with porcelain inlays to assure longer durability? And another question: how long have inlays been available? Are they new in dentistry? Why not always resort to them instead of root canal treating the teeth or as a preventative of root canals? Thank you.

Dr. Huefner’s answer:
I would say that it would depend on the size and condition of your existing white (tooth colored) fillings.  Typically if the filling is just a single surface (the top of the tooth) and less than 1/2 to 1/3 the width of the top of the tooth, tooth colored fillings are very adequate and will last for years.  However, realize that tooth colored fillings are a type of plastic and not nearly as durable as porcelain restorations used in inlays, onlays and crowns.
Without seeing your teeth, I would generally say that it is better to have porcelain inlays and onlays rather than large tooth colored fillings, or fillings that are done on 3 or more surfaces of the teeth.
Inlays and onlays have been in dentistry for decades!  However, they were done in gold.  In the 1980s and 1990s porcelain restorations that can be bonded to the teeth started to be the treatment of choice over gold, and remain so today.  Of particular note, my favorite porcelain material is EMax porcelain, which is extremely strong, and as such, can expected to last a very long time, if not a lifetime!

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