What Are Dental Inlays and Onlays?

Inlays and onlays are cosmetic and restorative dental solutions used when more than half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged. Inlays and onlays are pieces of porcelain, gold, or composite resin bonded to the tooth’s damaged area.

What is the difference between a Dental Inlay and Onlay?

Dental Inlays

Similar to a filling, dental inlays are used inside the cusp tips of the tooth.

Dental Onlays

A substantial reconstruction, similar to the inlay, extends out over one or more of the tooth’s cusps.

Traditionally, gold has been the material of choice for inlays and onlays. However, in recent years porcelain has become increasingly popular due to its strength and color, and it is easier to match the natural color of teeth.

How are inlays and onlays applied?

An inlay or onlay procedure requires two appointments to complete. 

  1. During the first visit, Dr. Tate will remove the damaged or decaying area of the tooth. He then prepares the tooth for the inlay or onlay. An essential aspect of an inlay or onlay procedure is maintaining a comfortable fit and natural bite. To achieve this, the dentist makes an impression of the tooth and sends it to a lab for fabrication. During the final stage of the first appointment, Dr. Tate will apply a temporary sealant on the tooth and schedule the next appointment.
  1. During the second appointment, Dr. Tate removes the temporary sealant. Dr. Tate 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.

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Inlays and Onlays
vs. Fillings and Crowns

Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to fifty percent. As an alternative, inlays and onlays, which are bonded directly onto the tooth using special high-strength resins, can increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent. So, while fillings make for a quick and convenient fix, they aren’t nearly as durable or strong as inlays or onlays. 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 crown, onlays can provide an excellent alternative.

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