When over half of the tooths biting surface is damaged, a dentist will often use an inlay or onlay.
What Are Inlays & Onlays?
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 that can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.
How Are They 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 will be taken and sent to a lab for fabrication. Dr. McCormick will then customize a temporary inlay or onlay for the tooth and schedule the next appointment.
At the second appointment, the temporary is removed. Dr. McCormick 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.
Traditional fillings, if large, can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As an alternative, since inlays and onlays are bonded directly onto the tooth using special high-strength resins, they can actually increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent. As a result, they can last several years. In some cases where the damage to the tooth is not extensive enough to merit an entire crown, onlays can provide a very good alternative.
This type of restoration requires 2 appointments:
Your First Appointment
- The old filling is removed along with any additional decay.
- An impression is made of your teeth. A model of your teeth is made and sent to the lab.
- A temporary onlay or crown is placed on the tooth.
At The Lab
A resin is carefully placed into the model of your teeth. It is then designed to look like your natural tooth.
Your Second Appointment
- The temporary onlay is removed.
- A conditioning gel is placed on your tooth to prepare it for the new onlay.
- Bonding cement is placed on the tooth and on the onlay or crown.
- The tooth is then polished and the bite is checked to insure normal chewing function.