When over half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged, Dr. Hunting will often use an inlay or onlay. 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.
Traditionally, gold has been the material of choice for inlays and onlays. In recent years, however, porcelain has become increasingly popular due to its strength and color that can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.
Inlays and onlays require two appointments to complete. During the first visit, the filling being replaced or the damaged or decayed area of the tooth is removed, and the tooth is prepared for the inlay or onlay. An accurate impression of the tooth will be taken so that our lab can construct a model of your tooth on which your restoration will be fabricated. Dr. Hunting will then apply a temporary restoration for the tooth and schedule the next appointment.
At the second appointment, the temporary restoration is removed. Dr. Hunting will then make sure that the inlay or onlay fits correctly. If the fit is satisfactory, the inlay or onlay will be bonded to the tooth with a strong resin and polished to a smooth finish.
As a result of the materials from which they are made, and the techniques by which they are bonded to the tooth, inlays and onlays are much stronger than traditional fillings. Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As an alternative, inlays and onlays can preserve or even enhance the strength of your tooth. 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 a full crown, an onlay can provide a very good and conservative alternative.