On occasion, a tooth’s decay or fracture is so extreme that a filling is not sufficient yet not extreme enough to call for a full dental crown. In cases like this, your dentist may choose to place an inlay or an onlay, a commonly used dental restoration technique that many members of the public may not know about.
Inlays, or indirect porcelain restorations, are similar to fillings but they are placed on the inside edges of the teeth. They are shaped to fit the prepared cavity and are then adhered to the tooth, sealing off chances for recurrent decay.
Onlays for teeth are a more extensive reconstruction that involves more than one tooth. Placing onlays is a more logical procedure than implanting several crowns.
Both inlays and onlays are typically fabricated from porcelain. Gold restorations have the longest history and have a sterling reputation (no pun intended). However, modern dentistry uses porcelain, resin, or other ceramics like zirconia that are more aesthetically pleasing and rival the durability of gold.
Inlays and onlays application procedures take two dental visits. At the first visit, the decay is removed and the tooth is prepped for the inlay or onlay. The dentist makes a mold of the tooth and sends it to the dental laboratory. This lab uses the impression to construct a custom-made inlay or onlay. On the first visit, the dentist applies a temporary sealant on the tooth and schedules a second appointment for the inlay or onlay to be installed after it comes back from the lab.
Inlays and onlays are more costly than fillings but their pros are well worth it:
- Virtually undetectable if porcelain or resin
- Stain resistant
- Ideal for large cavities
- Strong and durable
The placement of dental inlays and onlays is relatively simple. Most patients that undergo inlay/onlay work do not experience much pain. And the down-time for the procedure is virtually zero. It’s safe to return to work and other activities the same day or the next.