Inlays & Onlays

When more than half of your tooth’s biting surface is damaged, an inlay or onlay may be the best dental treatment for you. 

What are inlays and onlays?

Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold or composite resin and carefully bonded to the damaged area of your 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 your 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, which can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.

How are inlays and onlays applied?

Your First Appointment:

  1. Your old tooth filling is removed, along with any additional decay.
  2. An impression is made of your teeth. A model of your teeth is made and sent to a specialty lab for use in constructing your custom-made inlay or onlay.
  3. The temporary onlay is placed on your tooth.

At the Lab: Resin, ceramic, or gold is carefully placed into the model of your teeth. It is then designed to look natural and function optimally.

Your Second Appointment:

  1. The temporary onlay is removed.
  2. A conditioning gel is placed on your tooth to prepare it for the new onlay.
  3. Bonding cement is placed on the tooth and a high intensity light bonds the restoration to the tooth.
  4. The tooth is then polished.

Your teeth are restored to a natural look and feel, while being made stronger and offering your damaged tooth important protection.

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, inlays and onlays can last anywhere 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.