What Are Dental Inlays and Onlays?

Dental inlays and onlays are restorations used to restore mild to moderately damaged back teeth. Severely decayed, fractured or cracked rear teeth require whole coverage with a dental crown.

The best candidates for dental inlays and onlays have minor decay or damage to the tooth, that can’t be repaired with a basic filling. Successful dental treatment is achieved when there is enough healthy tooth structure remaining.

Benefits of Dental Inlays and Onlays

There are several benefits of dental treatment with inlays and onlays:

  • Dental inlays and onlays are constructed of strong, durable materials that are hard-wearing for up to 30 years.
  • Unlike traditional filings that reduce teeth strength by about 50 percent, inlays and onlays provide up to 75 percent more durability.
  • This type of dental restoration can also prolong tooth function and eliminate the need for future dental treatment.
  • Dental onlays provide more extensive coverage to replace old fillings.

How Are Inlays and Onlays Placed?

Dental treatment is completed in two appointments. Both procedures are very similar. At the first visit, the affected area is numbed with a local anesthetic. All damage or decay is removed to prepare the tooth for either the inlay or onlay.

A small putty-filled tray is placed over the teeth to create an impression. The mold is sent to a lab where the restoration is custom crafted. Most inlays and onlays are constructed of tooth-colored porcelain, but some are made of gold or composite resin. While your dental inlay or only is being made, your dentist will place a temporary filling to protect your tooth until the final application.

At the next dentist visit, the temporary filling will be removed and the new inlay or onlay will be checked for a proper fit. Your dentist will only bond the restoration permanently if the fit is perfect. Once secured the dental treatment is smoothed and polished.

Both appointments are completed in about an hour. The first visit may take a bit more time due to the preparation process. Following the application, you may experience some discomfort, and the restored tooth surface may take some getting used to over a short time. The soft tissue around the tooth may feel sensitive or sore, but this will pass in a day or two.