Inlays & Onlays

When more than half of the tooths biting surface is damaged a dentist will often use an inlay or onlay.

What are inlays and onlays?

Inlays or onlays are lab made restorations that are placed on teeth when the cavity or lost tooth structure is too large to be restored by a simple filling. The process of making an Inlay is very similar to a dental crown. After the tooth is prepared it is cemented or bonded to the tooth.

There are different materials that inlays are made of, gold, porcelain and composite resins are among them. Porcelain and composite inlays and onlays are cosmetic alternatives to fillings and are very strong compared to regular white fillings. Gold inlays and onlays are also good alternatives but their appearance has made them less popular.

Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin. These pieces are bonded to the damaged area of the tooth. An inlay, which is similar to a filling, is used inside the cusp tips of the tooth. An onlay is a more substantial reconstruction, similar to the inlay but extending out over one or more of the cusps of the tooth.

Traditionally, gold has been the material of choice for inlays and onlays. In recent years, however, porcelain has become increasingly popular due to its strength and color, which can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.

How are inlays and onlays applied?

Inlays and onlays require two appointments to complete the procedure. During the first visit, the filling being replaced or the damaged or decaying area of the tooth is removed, and the tooth is prepared for the inlay or onlay. To ensure proper fit and bite, an impression of the tooth is made by the dentist, and sent to a lab for fabrication. The dentist will then apply a temporary sealant on the tooth and schedule the next appointment.

At the second appointment, the temporary sealant is removed. Dr. Haddad will then make sure that the inlay or onlay fits correctly. If the fit is satisfactory, the inlay or onlay will be bonded to the tooth with a strong resin and polished to a smooth finish.

Considerations for inlays and onlays

Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As an alternative, inlays and onlays, which are bonded directly onto the tooth using special high-strength resins, can actually increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent. As a result, they can last from 10 to 30 years. In some cases, where the damage to the tooth is not extensive enough to merit an entire dental crown, onlays can provide a very good alternative.

Your dentist will explain to you when an inlay or onlay is a good treatment option for you. In general, inlays and onlays can replace most of back teeth fillings and provide a better alternative to Inlay/Onlay conventional filling. At the same time they are more conservative than dental crowns.

Cost of inlays and onlays

As far as the cost is concerned, because the process of making a dental inlay or onlay is similar to a crown, its cost is also comparable. When long-term longevity of inlays and onlays are considered, though, they can end up costing less than traditional fillings.