Inlays and Onlays

What are inlays and onlays?

Inlays and onlays, also known as indirect fillings, are used to help treat moderate tooth decay and damage. Unlike fillings, they are constructed outside of the dentist’s office in a laboratory. This procedure is used as a more conservative alternative to dental crowns or when a filling will not be sufficient to treat the existing damage. Inlays and onlays are made up of materials including porcelain, gold or composite resin. Inlays and onlays are two successful methods used to restore the appearance and function of natural teeth.

What is the difference between an inlay and onlay?

An inlay, more similar to a filling, is bonded to the inside or center of the tooth. An onlay is needed when the tooth requires further reconstruction. Onlays extend past the cusp tips of the tooth and can be bonded to the entire biting surface. A dentist will determine the appropriate method of treatment based on the extent of decay and damage present.

What are the different types of inlays and onlays?

Inlays and Onlays ( Porcelain or Composite Fillings )Inlays and onlays can be composed of various materials including:

  • Metal:
    Gold is the metal type used most because of its strength and durability. Gold, however, does not have the esthetic appeal of some other materials that are now used.
  • Composite resin: Resins are either glass-like materials or acrylics that can be matched to the tooth’s natural color.
  • Porcelain: Similar to resins, porcelain can also be matched to the tooth’s natural color.

In recent years, porcelain and composite resin have become the preferred choice by patients because they are more cosmetically pleasing than gold.

How is a dental inlay or onlay performed?

A local anesthetic will be administered to numb the area. Your dentist will first use a drill to remove the decayed or damaged area. In addition, areas of your tooth will be filed down to create an ideal surface for inlay or onlay placement. Impressions will be taken to create the proper inlay or onlay. The impression will be sent to laboratory and a temporary inlay or onlay will be used in the interim. Within a few weeks, you will return to your dentist and the permanent inlay or onlay will be cemented in place, fitted correctly with your bite, and polished.

In some cases, dentists have equipment in their office that can be make the inlay or onlay without sending the impression to a laboratory. In such cases, temporary inlays or onlays are not needed and the permanent fixture can be cemented in during one visit.

Do inlays and onlays require special care?

With proper maintenance, an inlay or onlay will last between 10 and 30 years. They do not require any special care and can be maintained with proper daily oral hygiene practices and regular visits to your dentist. Inlays and onlays are successful in preventing further damage to your natural tooth and help to avoid more complex restoration services.