If over half of your molar’s biting surface is decayed or missing, an inlay or onlay may be a better option than a filling. Inlays and onlays are basically used when more than a filling is needed but less than a crown will do. An inlay is placed in between the cusps of the tooth, whereas an onlay will cover one or more of the cusps. They are created to replace the correct anatomy of the tooth. Inlays and onlays are created using porcelain, and the color of the porcelain can be created to match the natural tooth color as well as the bonding cements that are used so that they blend seamlessly with the tooth structure. The result is a beautiful, natural-looking restoration.
Inlays and onlays are performed using very similar procedures. Both require two visits. During the first appointment, we begin the procedure by numbing the area using a local anesthetic. The decayed or damaged structure is removed using a drill, preparing the tooth for its new surface. After all the damage is removed, an impression is made of the prepared tooth so the inlay or onlay material can be cast in a form that will fit the tooth exactly. A temporary restoration is placed on the tooth to protect it until the laboratory fabricates the inlay or onlay and it can be bonded to the tooth. This can take two to three weeks.
Using the impression, a laboratory prepares the new tooth surface using gold, porcelain, or composite resin. When you return the temporary restoration is removed and the surface is cleaned to prepare for the new structure. We will then “try in” the new restoration to ensure that it fits correctly. If the fit is good, the inlay or onlay is permanently attached to the tooth using special cement or bonding. Some adjustments may need to be made to the restoration. To finish the procedure, we will polish the cemented or bonded structure and tooth. For more information on inlays or onlays, please contact our office.