Inlays & Onlays
We can repair small and medium-sized cavities in teeth with tooth coloured composite resin, but this material isn’t strong enough for larger fillings. If you need a large filling in a back tooth, an inlay or onlay is stronger, longer-lasting and much more durable. The inlay or onlay ensures your tooth is restored to the correct shape and makes sure it is strong enough so you can chew food without the risk of fracturing your tooth.
Inlays and onlays are called indirect restorations as unlike an ordinary filling, they are made outside of the mouth, and we usually need two appointments to complete treatment. They can be made from gold alloy, polished to a high sheen, or more often from porcelain as today’s modern porcelains are very strong and create a natural-looking restoration that is virtually invisible.
What is the Difference Between an Inlay and an Onlay?
You will need an inlay if you have a cavity affecting only the central part of the chewing surface of a back tooth. An onlay repairs a larger cavity, affecting not only the chewing surface but one or more of the tooth cusps. Tooth cusps are the raised points you can see on the inner and outer edges of the teeth, located closest to your tongue and cheeks.
What Is the Process for Having an Inlay or Onlay?
The process for having an inlay or onlay is very straightforward, and initially, we will need to prepare your tooth. We use local anaesthetic to make sure you feel comfortable for the duration of your appointment while we remove all the damaged portion of the tooth, getting rid of infection and decay. Once we have shaped the tooth cavity, we take a detailed dental impression to send to the dental lab. In the meantime, we fit a temporary filling to your tooth to protect the empty cavity. While you have your temporary filling, it is best to avoid chewing very sticky or hard foods that could dislodge or break the filling.
The dental lab uses the impression to create a working model of your tooth on which they fabricate your new restoration. When your new inlay or onlay is ready, we remove your temporary filling and prepare the cavity for bonding. Our dentist will try in the restoration, ensuring the fit is perfect before we permanently bond it into the cavity. We will check the condition of your inlay or onlay at every dental examination, but with the proper care, it should last for years before it needs replacing.