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Inlays and Onlays

You may have heard about getting fillings for cavities or crowns for damaged teeth.  However, have you heard of their alternatives—dental inlays and onlays?  There may be situations where the damage to a tooth requires more than filling but less than a crown.  Welcome, inlays and onlays.  Like the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, inlays and onlays may be “just the right amount” to restore a damaged tooth.  They are more substantial than filling and less intrusive than crowns.

What are the differences amongst inlays, onlays, and crowns?

Similar to a dental filling, an inlay restores lost tooth structure within the cusp of a tooth.  However, an inlay is handmade by a ceramist in a lab and is stronger and is color stable, which means your inlay will not change color over time.  An onlay is a more substantial procedure that extends over one or more cusps of a tooth.  Onlays are similar to crowns, but they do not cover the entire tooth surface.  Both inlays and onlays are made of the same materials (typically a type of porcelain ceramic), serve the same function, but cover and protect different areas of the tooth.

Inlays and onlays requires less tooth removal than crowns

What are inlays and onlays made of?

Inlays and onlays can be made of composite resin, porcelain, or gold. These materials are bonded to the damaged area of the tooth. In our practice, porcelain is the most requested by our patients. 

What is the inlay or onlay process like?

Inlays and onlays often require two appointments. During the first visit, your tooth will be designed and prepared while removing decay.  A detailed impression of your tooth will then be captured and used by a ceramist for personalized fabrication.  In the meantime, a provisional prosthetic will be handcrafted to protect and seal your tooh. 

During the second appointment, the provisional prosthetic is removed, and the fabricated inlay or onlay is placed and assessed for fitment.   After any necessary adjustments are made, it will be bonded to your tooth with a strong resin, and, finally, polished for a natural, smooth finish.  

How long do inlays and onlays last?

Inlays and onlays can last for decades.  The better your oral health is cared for, the longer they’ll stay intact.  Also, if you grind your teeth, you may be required to wear a nightguard while you sleep to protect your teeth as well as your dental restorations from breaking.    

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.