Dental Inlay OnlayWhen we have a tooth that needs repair, the first line of defense is a filling, also known as a direct restoration, using a material that is molded into place within the mouth.

If a tooth is damaged too greatly to support a filling but not damaged enough to need a dental crown, we need a solution somewhere in the middle. We don’t want to cap a damaged tooth with a dental crown unnecessarily because that removes much of the healthy portion of the tooth. On the other hand, a large dental filling can weaken the remaining structure of the tooth, and that can result in the tooth cracking, breaking, and even eventually needing a root canal.

So then, if the choice is only between a large tooth filling or a dental crown, you must decide if you want to save money now and risk major dental problems in the future, or undergo a possibly unwanted or unnecessary, not to mention expensive, dental treatment.

Voila!  There is a dental restoration that can solve your problem — dental inlays and onlays that are designed to restore large cavities without having to use a crown.   Like crowns, these are known as indirect restorations because they are fabricated outside of the mouth in a laboratory and cemented or bonded to the surface of the tooth during a second visit.  After the procedure, the tooth can bear up to 50 to 75 percent more chewing force.

Because this technique involves using the dental impressions and fabrication in a laboratory, it takes two visits to complete the work.  However, with the new CEREC technology the dentist can mill the porcelain inlays or onlays on site, and cement them in place in a single visit.

Inlays and onlays are usually made of a solid substance such as gold, porcelain or less often a cured composite resin, and fitted into a cavity in a tooth (inlay) or covering the top of a tooth (onlay) and cemented into place.

Advantages of inlays over direct composite fillings:

  • almost no limitations in the choice of material
  • strengthen teeth by up to 75% *
  • preserve the maximum amount of healthy tooth structure
  • durable, made from tough, hard-wearing materials which can last up to 30 years
  • extremely stable restorations that seldom fail
  • tight contact points (so no food gets wedged between adjacent teeth)
  • protection against recurrent decay
  • prolong tooth life
  • better at sealing teeth to keep out bacteria
  • prevent the need for more dental treatment in the future
  • looks like a natural tooth
  • precision of fabrication
  • superior fit with marginal integrity **
  • proper contouring for gingival (tissue) health
  • ease of cleansing (no rough edges)

* Traditional metal fillings can actually reduce the strength of the teeth by up to 50%.

** The tooth-to-restoration margin may be finished and polished to a very fine line of contact to minimize recurrent decay.  Conversely, direct composite filling pastes shrink slightly in volume during hardening.

Whether you think you need a tooth filling, dental inlay or onlay, or dental crown, one thing’s for certain: Ignoring your dental problem will put you in a vulnerable area with your dental health. Regardless of which restoration you end up with, your teeth, and by extension your body, will thank you.

If you are interested in inlays or onlays, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.