Inlays/Onlays

When over half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged, a dentist may place an inlay or onlay.

What Are Inlays & Onlays?

Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin. These pieces are bonded to the damaged area of the tooth. An inlay which is similar to a filling is used inside the cusp tips 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, porcelain has become increasingly popular due to its strength and color that can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.

How are inlays and onlays applied?

Inlays and onlays require two appointments to complete the procedure. The filling being replaced or the damaged or decaying area of the tooth is removed, and the tooth is prepared for the inlay or onlay. To ensure proper fit and bite, a computer wand is used to photograph the tooth. Blue tooth is then used to send the information about the prepared tooth to a milling machine which mills an inlay/onlay in 7-8 minutes. The inlay/onlay is then permanently cemented onto the tooth in the same appointment.

Considerations for inlays and onlays

Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As an alternative, since inlays and onlays are bonded directly onto the tooth using special high-strength resins, they 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.