Inlays and Onlays are used to repair damage to a tooth’s biting surface (or cusp) with a type of filling that is less invasive than a crown.
What Are Inlays and Onlays?
Though traditional dental fillings are a great option for patients with minor tooth decay, what are the options for restoring a tooth with significant damage? Inlays and onlays, also known as indirect fillings, are a wonderful option of restoring a tooth with significant decay; they preserve the maximum amount of healthy tooth structure compared to a crown, and compared to a large filling they can actually strengthen the tooth!
Large fillings will actually weaken a tooth’s structure, greatly increasing the risk of the tooth breaking, cracking, and eventually requiring extensive restoration treatment such as root canal therapy. And if a good amount of healthy tooth structure is still intact, a crown would needlessly require a large amount of the tooth to be removed.
What is the difference between inlays and onlays? Simply put, inlays fit “in” the tooth while onlays fit “on” the tooth; inlays fill the space in between a tooth’s cusps (biting surfaces), while onlays, required for more extensively damaged teeth, spread over the cusps or the entire biting surface of the tooth.
Unlike traditional fillings which are placed in one visit, inlays and onlays typically require two visits. During the first visit, we will take an impression of the tooth, which will be sent to a dental lab to create the inlay or onlay, and a temporary filling material will be placed on the tooth. During the second visit, the temporary filling will be removed and the custom-made indirect filling will be cemented into place, resulting in a strong, stable and natural-looking restored tooth.