Dental inlays and onlays are minimally invasive cosmetic dental procedures that are used to restore a decayed or damaged tooth to its original condition and can actually strengthen it. They are a more conservative approach than a dental crown because they don’t involve the removal of healthy tooth structure — and for this reason, many patients find them to be a preferable option. A crown involves the removal of more of the healthy tooth structure than is needed and can therefore increase the risk of tooth fracture and the need for a root canal treatment.
Inlays and onlays can often be used in place of traditional dental fillings to treat tooth decay or similar structural damage. Unlike dental fillings, which 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.
The advantages of inlays and onlays over a crown or composite filling
Superior Fit – Inlays and onlays offer a conservative preparation that preserves as much healthy tooth as possible. They are a great choice if you have minimal to moderate tooth decay that extends into a flossing area, offering an excellent alternative to full coverage crowns.
Tooth Color – Boasting esthetic longevity, inlays and onlays are not likely to discolor over time as tooth-colored resin fillings often do.
Tooth Structure Safeguard - Inlays and onlays preserve the maximum amount of healthy tooth structure while restoring decayed or damaged areas, helping to ensure functional longevity.
Easy Tooth Cleaning - Because the fit is tailored at all edges and the preparation minimal, your tooth can be easier to clean than it would be with full coverage restorative alternatives such as a dental crown. Composite filling can shrink during the curing process, whereas prefabricated porcelain or resin inlays and onlays will not (ensuring a precise fit).
Tight Space Fulfillments – If you have a cavity between your teeth, consider an inlay rather than a direct composite filling. Inlays are better at sealing teeth to keep out bacteria; they are easy to clean, will not stain and offer exceptional longevity.
Strength and Stability – Inlays and onlays are extremely stable restorative solutions for the treatment of decay. With superior fit and durable materials, inlays and onlays are a stable choice that can actually strengthen a damaged tooth.
Weak Tooth Protector - An onlay can protect the weak areas of the tooth. The procedure does not require the complete reshaping of the tooth.
What’s the difference between an inlay and onlay?
Both inlays and onlays are pre-formed in a lab before being bonded to the damaged or decayed tooth. The difference of use depends on the amount of tooth structure that has been lost to wear or decay. Dr. Farahmand will help you decide which is most appropriate for you.
An inlay fits within the grooves that are within the cusps of your teeth. An onlay, the larger of the two, fits within the grooves but wraps up and over the cusps covering more of the tooth’s surface. An onlay is used when the damage is more extensive and the restoration covers the entire chewing surface, including one or more tooth cusps.
The inlay and onlay procedure
Typically, an inlay or onlay procedure is completed in two dental visits.
During your first visit, Dr. Farahmand will prepare the damaged tooth and then take a molded impression of it. This mold is then sent to the dental laboratory where the inlay or onlay is fabricated.
Inlays and onlays can be made from gold, porcelain or resin materials, though porcelain is the preferred aesthetic option because it looks the most natural. Resin materials may be the best option for people who grind their teeth and/or those with a misaligned bite (malocclusion). A fitted, provisional inlay or onlay (sometimes known as a temporary or “temp” for short) in the shape of the final restoration is created during this visit to protect the tooth while the final restoration is being fabricated.
During your second visit, the provisional temporary is removed and the inlay or onlay is put in place.
Inlays and onlays are extremely stable restorations that seldom fail. Dr. Farahmand will check all margins to ensure a smooth fit with tight adjacent contacts. He will also check your bite to ensure that there are no occlusion-related problems affecting the margins of the restoration. Once fitted, the inlay or onlay is bonded onto the tooth and the margins are polished.