When over half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged, Dr. Peers will often use a dental inlay or onlay.
Dental inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin and 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 covering one or more of the cusps of the tooth.
In recent years, modern porcelain materials have become increasingly popular due to the strength and color that can more accurately match the natural color and translucency of natural teeth.
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 taken and sent to a lab for fabrication. A temporary sealant is placed over the prepared tooth to provide protection until the second appointment.
During the second appointment, the temporary sealant is removed and the inlay or onlya fabricated by the dental lab is checked for proper fit. If the fit is satisfactory, the inlay or onlay is bonded to the treated tooth with a strong, permanent bonding resin and polished to a smooth finish.
Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. Unlike traditional fillings, inlays and onlays are bonded directly to the tooth using special high-strength resins, actually increasing the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent. As a result, inlays and onlays 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 are recommended as a more conservative alternative.