What are Inlays and Onlays?

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When it comes to treatments most dentists want to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible. But what do you do when a restoration falls between the mild decay of a filling and the more extensive decay of a full crown?

This is where you need dental inlays and onlays. Never heard of these procedures? Here is all the information you need to know:

What are Dental Inlays and Onlays?

Inlays and onlays are dental restorations dentists use to repair rear molars with mild to moderate damage or decay. They recommend an inlay when decay is located within the cusp tips, right in the central part of the chewing surface.

They recommend an onlay when the restoration is larger and needs to cover the central chewing surface as well as one or more tooth cusps (raised points on a tooth).

Technicians make these dental restorations in a lab out of tooth-colored porcelain, ceramic, special dental composite, or gold. And unlike a filling that can weaken tooth structure, inlays and onlays can actually strengthen it.

What is the Procedure for Inlays and Onlays?

As with more extensive dental restorations, inlays and onlays usually require two separate appointments. During the first, the dentist performs an exam and takes x-rays. Then he or she clears away decayed tissue and takes an impression of the area.

The dentist sends the information to a dental lab where technicians craft the inlay or onlay. If necessary, the dentist will place a temporary restoration to protect the tooth while you wait for the permanent restoration.

Then during the second appointment, usually a couple of weeks later, the dentist removes any temporary restorations, re-examines the site, and places the inlay or onlay for a full restoration.

Once bonded in place the restoration can blend seamlessly with your other teeth in color, shape, and function.

Benefits of Inlays and Onlays:

When you get dental inlays or onlays they:

  • Give you optimal function and protection
  • Mimic the color of your natural teeth
  • Require less invasive dental work
  • Are less prone to discoloration
  • Are as easy to care for as your natural teeth

How to Care for Inlays and Onlays

Though you have a nearly indestructible restoration, you still need to care for your inlays and onlays just as you would your natural teeth. To practice proper oral hygiene you should brush at least twice and floss at least once a day. You should also visit the dentist twice a year for routine dental exams and professional cleanings. Following these simple steps can help your inlays and onlays last as long as 30 years or more.

Who is an Ideal Candidate for Inlays and Onlays?

Ideal candidates for fillings are usually good candidates for inlays and onlays. Patients might have too much damage for a simple filling, but still, have sufficient natural tooth structure to avoid the necessity of a full crown. Candidates should also follow dental care guidelines and try to keep their teeth in good shape.

For more information about dental inlays and onlays please contact us during office hours. One of our dental professionals can answer your questions and if you are interested, set you up with an appointment.