Also called“indirect restorations,” dental inlays and onlays are fabricated outside of thetooth and then placed onto the tooth during a separate step. An inlay fits intothe groove of your tooth’s biting surfaces, while an onlay covers one or morecusps of a tooth. Onlays can be made of resin or porcelain and arecustom-tinted to match the natural color of your tooth. 

Whenmore than half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged, a dentist will oftenuse an inlay or onlay.

What are dental inlays and onlays?

Inlays andonlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin. These pieces arebonded to the damaged area of the tooth. An inlay, which is similar to a filling, is used inside thecusp tips of the tooth. An onlay is a more substantial reconstruction, similarto 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 andcolor, which can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.

How are dental inlays and onlays applied?

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

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

Considerations for inlays and onlays

Traditionalfillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As analternative, inlays and onlays, which are bonded directly onto the tooth usingspecial high-strength resins, can actually increase the strength of a tooth byup to 75 percent. As a result, they can last from 10 to 30 years. In somecases, where the damage to the tooth is not extensive enough to merit an entirecrown, onlays can provide avery good alternative.