Dental Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays are used to fix teeth near the back of the mouth that have some fracturing or a moderate level of decay. Both types are made first and then placed in the mouth. They are most often made of porcelain or gold.

An inlay is made of a solid substance and fixed into a cavity inside a tooth. An onlay is similar, but it lies on or over a cusp, which is a part of the tooth’s surface.

Procedure

To work right, inlays and onlays are made to the exact size and shape of the tooth that is being fixed. The work most often takes two visits to the dentist.

At the first visit, your dentist injects a local anesthetic, removes the part of the tooth that is damaged, and then sculpts the part of the tooth that is left to make the best surface to attach the inlay or onlay.

A mold of the tooth being fixed, as well as of the teeth it comes in contact with, is then made with a quick setting gum or paste. With this mold, a temporary inlay or onlay is made and placed in your mouth until the final one can be made. The mold is passed on to a dental lab technician who makes the final inlay or onlay.

At your next visit, the dentist inserts the new inlay or onlay to be sure it fits right. The inlay or onlay is placed and checked before it is fixed in place. Lastly, it is polished.

Benefits and Potential Risks

The benefits of dental inlays and onlays include:

  • Treat tooth decay, avoid tooth loss, and stop sensitivity
  • Add to tooth strength by up to 75%
  • Keep more of the tooth than with a dental filling
  • Avoid a change in tooth size or shape, which metal fillings may cause
  • Fix teeth with tooth-colored materials that blend in and are less able to be seen

Few risks go with inlays and onlays. Some people are allergic to the anesthetic or to some of the material used to make them, and they may have a reaction.

To learn more about inlays and onlays, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist.

Inlays and onlays are used to restore teeth with some fracturing or a moderate level of decay near the back of the mouth. Both types of prosthesis are made before being placed into the mouth. They are generally made of porcelain or gold.

A dental inlay is a prosthesis made of a solid substance and cemented into a cavity inside a tooth. A dental onlay is similar to an inlay, except that onlays lay on or over a cusp, which is a portion of the tooth’s surface.

Procedure

In order to function properly, inlays and onlays are carefully molded to the exact size and shape of the tooth that is being restored. The procedure typically involves 2 visits to the dentist.

During the first visit, the dentist injects a local anesthetic, removes the part of the tooth that is damaged, and then carefully sculpts the part of the tooth that remains to create an optimal surface to which the inlay or onlay can ultimately be attached.
An impression of the tooth to be restored, as well as of the teeth it comes into contact with, is then created using a quick setting gum or paste. Using this impression or mold, a temporary inlay or onlay is created and placed in the patient’s mouth until the permanent prosthesis can be created. Then the mold is given to a dental laboratory technician, who constructs the final inlay or onlay so that it will fit the tooth as exactly as possible.

At the next visit, the dentist inserts the new inlay or onlay to be sure it correctly fits the area being restored. The prosthesis is carefully positioned and checked before being permanently attached and, finally, polished.

Benefits and Potential Risks

The benefits of dental inlays and onlays include:

  • Treat tooth decay, avoid tooth loss, and eliminate sensitivity
  • Increase overall tooth strength and durability by up to 75%
  • Maintain more of the tooth than with traditional fillings
  • Avoid changes in tooth size or shape, which metal fillings may cause
  • Restore teeth using tooth-colored materials that “disappear”

There are few risks associated with inlays and onlays. However, some people are allergic to either the anesthetic or to some of the material used to make the prosthesis, and they may have a reaction.

To learn more about inlays and onlays, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist.