Inlays and Onlays
The majority of dental patients have at least one restoration – the most common of which are fillings. But sometimes the teeth are decayed beyond what a traditional filling can repair. As an alternative to getting a crown, patients may opt for an inlay or onlay to restore the tooth to its normal function and appearance while preserving as much of the natural tooth structure as possible.
What are Inlays and Onlays?
Inlays and onlays are tooth restorations that fill in large areas of decay, defective fillings, or areas that have been damaged due to a physical trauma. They are virtually the same thing, except onlays are used to repair at least one chewing cusp. Inlays do not cover any chewing cusps. Inlays and onlays are both made in dental laboratories using the same materials that fillings are composed of. Some patients choose gold or amalgam restorations, but porcelain inlays and onlays most resemble the natural tooth color.
Under What Circumstances Would I Need an Inlay or Onlay?
You may need an inlay or onlay if you have a tooth with decay or damage that requires more extensive intervention than a filling, but less than a crown. Examples include teeth that are broken, cracked, fractured or moderately decayed. Your dentist may also recommend an inlay or onlay if your teeth are in good health, but you wish to make cosmetic enhancements to them. To find out more about inlays and onlays and whether they are right for you, schedule a consultation with your dentist.
What Should I expect during an Inlay and Onlay Treatment?
If you are found to be a candidate for an inlay or onlay, your dentist will numb your tooth and gently prepare it by removing all decay and old restoration materials. Once the area is prepared and properly cleaned, impressions will be taken to ensure your new inlay or onlay fits well. The molds taken will be sent to a dental lab, where a permanent inlay or onlay will be fabricated. Your dentist will give you a temporary filling to protect your teeth while the permanent restorations are made.
When the inlay or onlay is ready, you’ll return to your dentist to have the restoration cemented to your tooth. This process takes only minutes, during which time your dentist may modify the restoration slightly to ensure a precise fit and comfortable bite. Keep in mind that you’ll need to continue practicing good hygiene and attending periodic dental cleanings to ensure your restoration lasts for many years to come.