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Illustration of the restorative qualities of inlays and onlays.

Your Guide to Inlays and Onlays

What are Inlays and Onlays?

Inlays and onlays are two dental restoration devices that are an alternative to dental fillings or dental crowns. They are also known as indirect fillings, as they offer a well-fitting, stronger, longer-lasting restorative solution to damage caused by tooth decay or similar damage. The restoration achieved by an inlay or onlay is both aesthetically and functionally beneficial.

What is the Difference between Inlays and Onlays?

An inlay is when the restorative material is bonded within the center of a tooth. An onlay is when the restorative material is placed over one or more cusps (points) of the tooth or fully covers the biting surface of the tooth.

The Indirect Filling Procedure

An inlay or onlay procedure is normally completed in two dental visits. The dentist will prepare the damaged tooth during the first visit. A dental impression of the tooth is taken and sent to a dental laboratory, where the inlay or onlay is created from gold, porcelain or resin materials. A temporary restoration may be created and fitted onto the prepared tooth in the meantime, while the permanent restoration is made.

During the second visit, the temporary restoration will be removed and the inlay or onlay will be placed. The dentist will ensure a smooth fit and check your bite to ensure that there are no problems affecting the margins of the restoration. Once fitted, the restoration is bonded onto the tooth and the margins are polished.

The Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

  • An excellent alternative to crowns as it preserves as much healthy tooth as possible.
  • Tooth colored resin inlays and onlays are aesthetically pleasing and do not easily discolor.
  • Preserves healthy tooth structure.
  • Restores decayed or damaged areas.
  • Superior fit ensures easy tooth cleaning.
  • Better at sealing cavities between teeth to keep out bacteria than normal fillings.
  • Made of durable materials to strengthen the damaged tooth.
  • Protects the weak areas of the tooth.

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