Inlays and Onlays

When a large portion of a tooth’s biting surface is damaged or destroyed, the dentist will use either an inlay, or an onlay. Both are items that are adhered to the top of the tooth to repair it, and both look natural.

What are inlays and onlays?

What are inlays and onlays?

A few materials can be used to make inlays and onlays. Gold, porcelain or a resin can be used to fix the damaged area of the tooth. These are adhered to the tooth to correct the damage the tooth has sustained.

An inlay is very similar to a filling, as it is used to fill a broken surface within the cusps of a tooth. The onlay, which is used for more severe damage, is laid on top of the tooth and adhered the same way as the inlay, but an onlay can be large enough to span multiple teeth.

Gold was originally the material of choice for these procedures, but porcelain is becoming more popular in all dental procedures due to its innate strength and its potential to match the natural color of the patient’s teeth.

How are Inlays and Onlays Applied?

Both of these procedures require two office visits to complete. At the first office visit, the patient will have the tooth damage removed. This damage could be a filling to be replaced with the inlay or onlay, severe decay, or something as simple as a broken tooth. The dentist will then make preparations on the tooth to receive the procedure. To make sure that the new inlay or onlay looks natural and fits correctly, an impression of the tooth/teeth will be taken and sent to a lab to have the inlay or onlay fabricated. A sealant is then applied to the tooth to protect it until the patient’s next appointment.

At the second appointment, the sealant is removed and Dr. David Hubert or Dr. Adam Hubert will check the inlay or onlay for fit and form, and a comfortable bite. If the patient is pleased with the fit and bite, the inlay or onlay is adhered to the surface of the damaged tooth using a resin. The inlay or onlay is then polished to be smooth, and look like a normal, healthy tooth.

Considerations for Inlays and Onlays

A normal filling can reduce the integrity and strength of a tooth by half. This could cause extra damage to a mouth if something were to happen. Alternatively, the high strength resin used to bond porcelain inlays and onlays to the tooth itself can actually increase a tooth’s strength and integrity by 75%. In some cases where damage is not extensive enough to warrant a crown, an inlay or onlay is a great alternative procedure. Due to the strength of the resin, and the materials Drs. David Hubert and Adam Hubert use in these procedures, the inlays and onlays can last from 10 to 30 years.