Dental Inlays and Onlays

What are dental inlays and onlays?

Usually, fillings are used to fill in small cavities, while crowns are used when the tooth decay is deeper or there is a larger fracture or cracked tooth to be covered up. But, there may be situations when a filling is not enough and a crown is too much to protect the decay. This is where dental inlays and onlays come into play. Dental inlays and onlays are two similar options to fix damaged teeth or to replace an old filing. Your dentist will most likely recommend an inlay or onlay when more than half of your tooth’s biting surface is weakened or damaged.

You can almost guess the difference between the two options by their names alone. Inlays are similar to fillings, and they are used inside the affected tooth’s cusp tips to repair and strengthen the tooth. An onlay is similar to an inlay, but it is a more substantial reconstruction, and it extends to the outside and over one or more of the damaged tooth’s cusps.

Inlays and onlays can be made out of porcelain, gold or composite resin. For the longest time, gold was the material of choice for both inlays and onlays. In recent years, however, porcelain has become increasingly popular since the material’s color usually matches the natural color of your teeth more closely.

How do inlays and onlays work?

Both restorative options require two appointments. During your first visit, your dentist will prepare the affected tooth by removing the old filling or the damaged or decayed area. Next, we will take impressions of the tooth, so we can make sure that your restoration will have the proper fit and bite. The impressions will be sent to a lab where your customized inlay or onlay will be created. Your dentist will then apply a temporary sealant to the affected tooth to protect it until your next appointment.

Once your inlay or onlay arrives at our office, you are ready for your second visit. First, the sealant will be removed, and your dentist will make sure that your new dental restoration fits correctly. If everything looks good, the inlay or onlay can be bonded to the tooth with a strong resin. To finish up the process, the tooth will be polished and smoothened, and you are ready to showcase your restored and healthy smile.

Is an inlay or onlay the right option for you?

Did you know that a traditional filling can reduce the strength of your natural tooth by 50 percent? That’s why inlays and onlays are a long-lasting and strong alternative. Due to the high-strength resins used to directly bond the restoration to your tooths surface, inlays and onlays will provide crucial support to your natural teeth and increase their strength by up to 75 percent, which can make both options last 10-30 years. On top of that, onlays can even be an alternative to crowns if the damage to the tooth is not too severe.

What kind of technology is used to create dental inlays and onlays?

Monterey Peninsula Dental Group is proud to use CEREC technology to create inlays and onlays in a way that’s quick and convenient for our patients.



This page has been reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Stephen Ikemiya, a partner at MPDG who completed dental school at Northwestern University. Click here to follow him on Linkedin.

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