Inlays & Onlays
When more than half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged, a dentist will often use an inlay or onlay.
Inlays and onlays are dental restorations used by a select number of dentists. In certain cases, inlays and onlays are a conservative alternative to full coverage dental crowns. Also known as indirect fillings, inlays and onlays offer a well-fitting, stronger, longer lasting reparative solution to tooth decay than traditional fillings. These restorations are beneficial from both an aesthetic and functional point of view.
Inlays and onlays can often be used in place of traditional dental fillings to treat tooth decay or similar structural damage. Whereas dental fillings are molded into place within the mouth during a dental visit, inlays and onlays are fabricated indirectly in a dental lab before being fitted and bonded to the damaged tooth by your dentist.
Ideal candidates for inlay or onlay work typically have too much damage or decay in the tooth structure to be successfully treated using a filling, but have sufficient healthy tooth remaining to avoid the need for a crown. This allows the dentist to conserve more of the patient’s original tooth structure.
What are inlays and onlays?
Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin materials. The difference is in the appearance of the finished restoration. These pieces are bonded to the damaged area of the tooth. The restoration is called an “inlay” when the material is bonded within the center of a tooth. Conversely, the restoration is called an “onlay” when the extent of the damage requires inclusion of one or more cusps (points) of the tooth or full coverage of the biting surface.
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, which can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.
Dr. Coffey will discuss with you the best type of inlay or onlay material to use. If aesthetics is not a concern (for example, with back molars), gold is the best option. Porcelain inlays and onlays offer the best aesthetics and are often used in the “smile line” areas. Resin materials may be the best option for people who grind their teeth and/or those with a misaligned bite (malocclusion).
How are inlays and onlays 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 is made by Dr. Coffey, and sent to a lab for fabrication. A fitted, provisional inlay or onlay (sometimes known as a temporary or “temp” for short) in the shape of the final restoration will be created during this visit to protect the tooth while the final restoration is being fabricated.
At the second appointment, the provisional temporary is removed. Dr. Coffey will then check to make sure the inlay or onlay fits correctly by checking all the margins to ensure a smooth fit with tight adjacent contacts. He will also check the bite to ensure that there are no occlusion-related problems affecting the margins of the restoration. 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.
Considerations for inlays and onlays
Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As an alternative, inlays and onlays, which are bonded directly onto the tooth using special high-strength resins, can actually increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent. 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 a very good alternative.
If you would like to schedule a FREE consultation for inlays/onlays (x-rays not included) with Encinitas Dentist, Edward B. Coffey, DDS MS – Encinitas Dental Art, please call us at (760) 942-7272. Hablamos Español.