Dental inlays and onlays are used primarily on back teeth that have more extensive cavities. An inlay is used when the decay is inside the cusps of the tooth in back teeth used for chewing. Onlays are used when the decay includes one or more cusps of the affected tooth, or for teeth that have broken but not to the point of needing a crown. Inlays and onlays used to be made of gold. Now they are also made with reinforced composite resins or porcelain, for a more natural look.
A patient with an onlay will retain more of the natural tooth structure, this increases the lifespan of the tooth.
Both inlays and onlays may take two appointments. The teeth must be prepared and an impression taken. Temporary inlays or onlays will be fabricated to protect the teeth. The impression will be used to create a custom restoration for the patient’s tooth or teeth. The second appointment is for removing the temporary pieces and bonding the new custom restorations in place.