Inlays and onlays are dental restorations that are used as an alternative to full coverage dental crowns. These dental restorations offer a well-fitting, strong, long-lasting solution to tooth decay. Inlays and onlays can also be used in place of dental fillings. While dental fillings are molded into place within the mouth during a single dental visit, inlays and onlays are fabricated in a dental lab before being fitted and bonded to the damaged tooth.
An inlay restoration is when the material is bonded within the center of the tooth. An onlay restoration is like an inlay restoration except the extent of the damage requires inclusion of one or more cusps (the pointed portion of the tooth on the biting surface) on the tooth. Both inlays and onlays are highly durable and with proper care, can last for many years. Some reasons for needing these restorations include large, failing restorations, lost fillings or fractured cusps.
Advantages and benefits of inlays and onlays include:
- Tooth color – Inlays and onlays are not likely to discolor over time.
- Superior fit – This conservative approach preserves as much healthy tooth as possible.
- Tight space protection – Inlays are best for sealing teeth to keep out bacteria.
- Strength and stability – Inlays and onlays are extremely stable restorative solutions for the treatment of decay.
- Tooth structure safeguard – Since the fit is tailored at all edges and preparation is minimal, your tooth will be easier to clean.
- Weak tooth protection – An onlay can protect the weak areas of the tooth and the procedure does not require the complete reshaping of the tooth.