Inlays and onlays are dental restorations used to repair a tooth when composite fillings may not be sufficient, and a dental crown may not be necessary. Here, our Calgary dentists share what you should know about these indirect restorations.
Indirect Fillings (Inlays & Onlays) vs. Direct Composite Fillings
Inlays and onlays are both considered indirect fillings because they are created outside the mouth and then bonded to the tooth by your dentist. In contrast, a direct filling, or composite filling, is applied directly to a tooth by your dentist in one office visit.
There are times when tooth damage is too extensive to be treated with a composite filling, yet not significant enough to need a dental crown. In these cases, the best option for restoring the tooth may be an inlay or onlay.
What is the difference between an inlay and an onlay?
An inlay is an indirect filling that fits within the cusps (little points) of a molar or premolar. An onlay is an indirect filling that covers one or more of these cusps. Either way, the procedure for placing an inlay or onlay is the same.
What are inlays and onlays made of?
Inlays and onlays are typically made from composite material, gold, or tooth-coloured porcelain. Your dentist will discuss your options with you and help you choose the best one for your smile.
What is the process for getting an inlay or onlay?
Getting an inlay or onlay is very much like getting a dental crown, except less of your natural tooth structure will need to be removed in preparation. With inlays and onlays, the goal is to preserve as much of your natural tooth as possible.
To begin, your dentist will numb the tooth and surrounding area and then remove the decay to prevent it from progressing deeper into the tooth. Next, your dentist will take a dental impression and send it to a dental laboratory so they can create a custom-fitted inlay or onlay for your smile.
Before you leave the office, your dentist will attach a temporary filling to your tooth to protect it until the permanent restoration is ready. Once your custom inlay or onlay is ready, it will be permanently bonded to your tooth by your dentist.
How do I care for inlays and onlays?
Inlays and onlays are strong, long-lasting dental restorations and require the same care as your natural teeth. Daily brushing and flossing, and regular professional cleanings at your dental office is the best way to make sure your restoration lasts for years to come.