What are ‘onlays’ and ‘inlays?’

Onlays and Inlays are a type of tooth restoration: they are often referred to as an ‘indirect filling’ and are used to repair a decayed or damaged tooth. They can also be used instead of a dental crown.

How do they differ from normal fillings? Where they differ is that they are produced in a dental laboratory before being bonded to your natural teeth. Whereas, a filling can be fitted in the one go during a dental visit.

An ‘onlay’ restoration is where the material is placed not just inside the tooth but has to cover all corners of the tooth. In other words, it covers all areas of the biting area.

An ‘inlay’ restoration is where the material is placed inside the centre of a tooth (which is rather similar to a filling).

These are a good choice for patients who have mild to moderate tooth decay. They are seen as a cautious approach to treating tooth decay with the aim of preserving as much of the tooth as possible.

They are strong, long lasting, easy to clean and less prone to staining than resin fillings. They can be made from porcelain, gold or resin materials with porcelain being the best from an aesthetic point of view. The dentist will discuss the different materials and which is the best for you.

The procedure tends to be carried out in two visits:

  • On the first visit your dentist will examine the damaged tooth before taking an impression of it. This impression will be used to make a mould which is then used to create your onlay/inlay. Your dentist will fit a temporary inlay/onlay during this time.
  • On your second visit the dentist will remove the temporary version before fitting your permanent inlay/onlay.

The inlay or onlay is bonded onto your damaged tooth and secured in place, before undergoing a final polish. An inlay or onlay is tooth coloured and so blends in perfectly with your natural teeth.

Dental crowns are an alternative to inlays and onlays.

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