Inlays and Onlays Procedure

By Joan Kirschner on April 25, 2015


A man and woman with healthy, white smilesInlays and onlays treatment offers a cosmetically appealing solution to treating tooth decay and dental damage, and they can be used to replace old metal fillings. Restorative dentistry treatments, like inlays and onlays, can restore the appearance of your smile while improving dental function. Learn more about the inlays and onlays procedure in this overview from Plymouth dentist Joan Kirschner.

What Are Inlays and Onlays?

Inlays and onlays are restorative treatments used to treat dental damage. Inlays and onlays are most commonly made of tooth-colored materials, like composite resin or porcelain, to create a seamless blend between the natural tooth and the dental restoration. Both inlays and onlays can be used to replace old metal fillings, treat new cavities, or repair teeth with mild to moderate damage. Inlays and onlays are similar, but they are different treatments as described below:

  • Inlays: Inlays are used to treat smaller areas of decay than onlays. Inlays are specifically used when decay is isolated within the cusps of the teeth.
  • Onlays: Onlays are also called partial crowns and are used when dental damage is more extensive, extending beyond one or more cusps.

Inlays and Onlays Procedure

Inlays and onlays are custom-made for a perfect fit and blend. The procedure for both is virtually the same, requiring two dental visits. During the first dental visit, the tooth is prepared for treatment by removing damaged or decayed areas and thoroughly cleaning the tooth. The coloring of the restoration is determined and impressions are made of the tooth. The impressions are sent to a dental lab, where each inlay or onlay is custom-crafted. A temporary inlay or onlay is placed while the restoration is made. Once the restoration is ready, a second appointment is required to remove the temporary inlay or onlay and place the finished restoration.

The Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays treatment offers many benefits both aesthetically and functionally. Inlays and onlays can restore strength to damaged teeth and improve appearance. Some of the many benefits of inlays and onlays include:

  • Durable: Inlays and onlays are made of durable composite resin and, with proper care, can last well over a decade.
  • Preserves the tooth: Inlays and onlays are bonded directly to the tooth, requiring less of the natural tooth to be removed for placement.
  • Won't discolor the tooth: Silver amalgam fillings can discolor the teeth to a grayish tint over time. Tooth-colored inlays and onlays maintain a white appearance.
  • Restores strength: Because inlays and onlays are directly bonded to the teeth, they restore the dental strength and structure.
  • Improves appearance: Inlays and onlays are custom-made match the surrounding natural tooth, repairing damage and restoring appearance. 

Enjoy a Renewed Smile

Inlays and onlays can restore the appearance of your teeth so you can smile with confidence. Whether you are interested in replacing old metal fillings or have untreated dental damage, inlays and onlays may be right for you. To discuss your treatment options, we welcome you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Kirschner today!

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