Inlays & Onlays

When more than half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged, a dentist will often use an inlay or onlay.

What are inlays and onlays?

Inlays and onlays can be made of shade-matched porcelain or composite resin and are a conservative way to restore teeth that don’t require to be fully covered by a crown. Inlays/onlays fit like a puzzle piece into prepared areas of the tooth and are bonded into place to become as one with the tooth. An inlay, which is similar to a filling, is used inside the cusp tips (corners) of the tooth. An onlay is a more substantial reconstruction, similar to the inlay but extending out over one or more of the cusps of the tooth.

Traditionally, gold has been the material of choice for inlays and onlays. In recent years, however, ceramics have become the newest and best material due the strength and color matching of the more modern materials, which can be custom shaded to blend in naturally with your own unique coloration.

How are inlays and onlays applied?

Using the CEREC system, Inlays and onlays require only one appointment to complete! During the visit, the filling being replaced or the damaged or decaying area of the tooth is removed, irregular areas are filled in, and the tooth is shaped for the inlay or onlay.  The CEREC system is then used to scan your teeth digitally and create virtual models.  The inlay or onlay can then be designed in the CEREC software and computer milled from an appropriate color and type of ceramic.

After the material is fully milled and polished, Dr. Hill will make sure that the inlay or onlay fits correctly. After that, the inlay or onlay will be bonded to the tooth with a strong resin and polished to a smooth finish.  The image below shows an onlay made by Dr. Hill for a tooth heavily damaged by decay.  It was done in one visit using the CEREC system and the finished result on the right speaks for itself!johnsonpanor (Large)

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.  Where and when to use onlays rather than crowns depends on how strong and healthy the remaining corners of your tooth are, and Dr. Hill will be pleased to advise you on the best course of treatment for your specific needs.