Dental Inlays & Onlays

Inlays & Onlays: When are they used?

In cases where the tooth’s surface has been damaged to the point of no return, your dentists will often recommend an inlay or an onlay.

What are inlays and onlays?

Inlays and Onlays are made of a composite, such as resin, porcelain, gold, or other metals. They are bonded to the surface of the tooth to replace and repair damaged surfaces and preserve as much of the original tooth as possible. An inlay, which is much like a traditional filling, is use on the cusp tips of the tooth to extend the biting surface and repair wear. Onlays, on the other hand, are used for more substantial reconstructions, such as an entire surface of the tooth that extends past more than one cusp.

While gold has been the most commonly used material for inlays and onlays in years past, porcelain has begun to overtake this title. Porcelain comes in a customizable color in order to best match the existing surface, and it is also stronger and cheaper than metal overlays.

Application

Inlays or Onlays require only two appointments to be completed. On the first visit, your dentist will remove the original, damaged area of the tooth. The tooth is then prepared for the inlay or onlay by filing and cleaning the surface. Before the onlay is created, an impression of the tooth and the surrounding teeth is taken to ensure a perfect fit. This impression is sent to the lab to allow them to specially craft the onlay or inlay that works best for your mouth. After that, your dentist will install a temporary crown to protect your tooth in the time between the application of the inlay or onlay.

During the next appointment, the temporary crown is removed and your dentist will fit the inlay or onlay to your tooth, making adjustments to the surface as needed. After the adjustments are made, the onlay or inlay will be attached to the tooth with a bonding agent and polished to match the rest of the enamel surface.

Considerations

While normal fillings can jeopardize the strength of your natural tooth but up to half, onlays and inlays are able to increase the stability of your tooth by almost 75%, since they are bonded directly onto your tooth instead of placed inside. Some onlays and inlays can last up to thirty years, and are a great solution for minimal damage to the surface of the tooth where a full crown is not necessary.