Porcelain Inlays & Onlays

When more than half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged a dentist will often use an inlay or onlay.

For more information about inlays and onlays or to schedule a consultation appointment, call our office at 626-307-7196.

What are inlays and onlays?

Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin. These pieces are bonded to the damaged area of the tooth. An inlay, which is similar to a filling, is used inside the cusp tips of the tooth. An onlay is a more substantial reconstruction, similar to the inlay but extending out over one or more of the cusps of the tooth. Onlays are recommended when areas of the tooth that are used for heavy function are damaged.

Traditionally, gold has been the material of choice for inlays and onlays. In recent years, however, different types of porcelain/ceramics has become increasingly popular due to its strength and color, which can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.

How are inlays and onlays applied?

Inlays and onlays require two appointments to complete the procedure. During the first visit, the filling being replaced or the damaged or decaying area of the tooth is removed, and the tooth is prepared for the inlay or onlay. To ensure proper fit and bite, an impression of the tooth is made and sent to a lab for fabrication at the first appointment. A temporary material will be placed on the tooth to protect the prepared portion of the tooth until the next scheduled appointment (which typically is 2 weeks later).

At the second appointment, the temporary material is removed.  The inlay or onlay is tried onto the prepared tooth to check for proper fit. If the fit is satisfactory, the inlay or onlay will be bonded to the tooth with a strong resin cement and polished to a smooth finish.

Considerations for inlays and onlays

Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As an alternative, inlays and onlays, which are bonded directly onto the tooth using special high-strength resins, can actually increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent. As a result, they can last from 10 to 30 years. In some cases, where the damage to the tooth is not extensive enough to merit an entire crown, onlays can provide a very good alternative.