Dental Inlays and Onlays

Dental Inlays & Onlays for Tooth Restoration

Dental inlays and onlays are best described as more than a filling but less than a crown. At Rodeo Dental, we use inlays and onlays to restore teeth that have been damaged by decay or fractures yet do not quite need a crown to restore tooth function. They are also sometimes used when old metal fillings are replaced. So what’s the difference?

  • An inlay covers the chewing service in between the cusps (rounded edges) of the tooth.
  • An onlay extends over one or more cusps, or over the entire biting surface of the tooth.

This type of restorative dentistry is generally recommended when there is enough healthy tooth to avoid the use of a crown.

Getting a Dental Inlay or Onlay

Dental inlays and onlays are created from a mold of the patient’s tooth, which is taken in the office and then sent to a dental lab so that the inlay/onlay can be made. The custom piece is created from porcelain or a composite resin material that blends naturally with the existing teeth. It is applied to the surface of the tooth and bonded permanently into place.

Getting an inlay or onlay requires two appointments, each of which takes about an hour. During the first appointment:

  • The dentist treats any decay or damage to prepare your tooth for the inlay/onlay.
  • A mold and putty is used to take an impression of your tooth so that the inlay or onlay can be created at the lab.
  • A temporary cover or filling is placed on your tooth to protect it until your next appointment.

During the second appointment:

  • The dentist removes the temporary cover/filling and checks the fit of your new inlay or onlay.
  • Once a perfect fit is achieved, the inlay/onlay is bonded to your tooth with a strong resin adhesive.
  • The dentist polishes your tooth to make sure it is smooth and that the piece blends in seamlessly.

Benefits of Dental Inlays and Onlays

As compared to metal fillings (which can actually weaken the tooth), inlays and onlays offer the following benefits:

  • They are durable and can last up to 30 years with proper care
  • They improve the strength of the treated tooth by up to 75%
  • They prolong the life of the tooth and help prevent additional dental work
  • They do not disturb existing healthy tooth structures

Inlays and onlays are also superior to metal fillings because they do not expand and contract with changes in temperature, which can weaken the tooth structure over time.

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