Inlay and onlay restorations are custom-crafted fillings traditionally made of composite material, gold, or tooth-colored porcelain. Many patients prefer porcelain inlays and onlays because they resemble your natural teeth much like the composite material, but have the added advantage of being more durable.
Porcelain inlays and onlays can also be utilized to conservatively repair damage that is too severe to be repaired by a traditional filling, but also not severe enough to require a full-crown procedure. In this way, teeth that have large defective fillings or more severe damage caused by decay or trauma can be restored without significant loss to the natural structure of the teeth.
Here is a list of reasons why your dentist might suggest a porcelain inlay or onlay treatment:
Broken or fractured teeth
A cavity that requires a large fitting
A specific cosmetic enhancement for which they might be the best solution
Inlays often make an ideal alternative to conventional silver and composite fillings, while onlays can sometimes be used in place of crowns (caps). For this reason, porcelain onlays are sometimes referred to as partial crowns. The two treatments are essentially identical except that the additional coverage onlays provide is used when one or more of the chewing cusps have been damaged and need to be included in the restoration.
Both porcelain inlays and porcelain onlays are manufactured in a professional dental laboratory and then permanently cemented into place by your dentist. While porcelain inlays and onlays are highly durable, they are not always permanent and may eventually require replacement. That said, these treatments have a long record of providing patients with a beautiful smile that lasts for many, many years.
How are porcelain inlays and onlays applied?
Placing a porcelain inlay or onlay usually requires two appointments. At the first appointment, your dentist will numb the teeth selected for treatment and remove any decay and old filling materials. Once cleared, the teeth will be thoroughly cleaned and carefully prepared by shaping the surface to properly fit your restoration. With the teeth now set to receive the inlay or onlay, the dentist will take several highly accurate impressions, or molds, that will be used to create both your custom porcelain inlay or onlay and a temporary restoration. The mold will be sent to the dental laboratory, and a temporary filling will be set in place on your tooth or teeth to protect them while your restoration is crafted.
During your second appointment, the dentist will carefully and precisely cement your new restoration in place, making adjustments as necessary to ensure a proper fit and a comfortable bite. You will receive proper care instructions at the conclusion of your treatment, and, of course, good oral hygiene practices, a proper diet, and regular dental visits will significantly prolong the life of your new restoration.
Should you have any questions about porcelain inlays or onlays, please ask your dentist.