When a tooth is too decayed or fractured to be treated with a direct filling, but the tooth’s structure is not sufficiently damaged to require a full dental crown, your dentist may recommend an inlay or onlay to conserve as much of your natural tooth as possible. Inlays and onlays are known as indirect fillings because they are made in a dental laboratory and then placed onto your tooth. This is in contrast to a direct filling which is placed directly on the tooth in one appointment at your dentist’s office.
The inlay/onlay procedure
Inlays and onlays are performed over multiple visits.
At the first appointment, the areas of decay or damage are removed and the tooth is prepared to receive the dental inlay or onlay.
Using a small tray filled with dental putty that fits over the teeth, the dentist takes a mold (impression) of the damaged tooth. This impression is sent off to the dental laboratory, where a dental inlay or onlay is created that will fit your tooth exactly. While the inlay or onlay is being created at the lab, the dentist creates a temporary filling for your tooth to protect it until your next appointment. With newer scanning technology available at Yonge Eglinton Dental, the impression can be taken digitally, eliminating the need for placing a tray filled with dental putty on your teeth.
At the second appointment, your dentist will remove the temporary restoration, ensure the produced inlay or onlay fits correctly, bond it to the tooth with a strong cement, and then polish it so it’s smooth and comfortable.
This following video outlines the procedure:
The advantage of inlays and onlays
Inlays and onlays require little maintenance and they will generally last longer than direct fillings.
The disadvantage of inlays and onlays
Inlays and onlays require multiple appointments to complete.
Inlays and Onlays Q&A
The tissue around the treated tooth may feel sore or sensitive after the procedure, but this will subside after a few days. During this time, over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to manage any discomfort your may have.
Because inlays and onlays are created in a dental laboratory with stronger materials, they can last five to ten years or longer.
Both involve filling the empty space left by decay or a fracture, but they differ in how the space is filled. With a direct filling, your dentist will fill the space with restorative material in one visit. An inlay is a pre-fabricated solid piece made from gold or ceramic, shaped in a dental laboratory and cemented onto your tooth.
The benefit of an inlay is durability. Because of the material used and its design, it has less chance of moving around and creating holes where bacteria or food can get inside the tooth.
Both sit on top of the tooth, but an onlay will cover only the affected area whereas a crown covers the entire surface of the tooth.
The best way to maintain your inlays and onlays is to be diligent with your oral hygiene: brush and floss twice a day and visit the dentist regularly.
Many factors impact the cost of inlays and onlays, including why the inlay or onlay is being placed, the number of restorations being placed and the state of the tooth or teeth being treated. At your initial assessment, your dentist will be able to prepare a cost estimate. An inlay or onlay may be covered by your dental insurance. Once your dentist has had an opportunity to examine your mouth, they can send a cost estimate to your insurer to determine if the proposed treatment is covered under your dental plan.
Do you have a damaged tooth?
Make an appointment for an examination and we will let you know if an inlay or onlay is an appropriate approach.