Here at Scripps Poway Dental Care, one of the procedures that occurs the most often is the application of an inlay or onlay. An inlay or onlay is crafted and placed to protect a tooth that is damaged. One of the benefits of receiving an inlay or onlay is that the procedure is less invasive than the installation of a crown and actually preserves the structure of a healthy tooth, while a crown involves scraping away tissue. For this reason, it is popular with many patients and also quite affordable.
During your appointments for one of these procedures, most of your time will be spent having x-rays or molds taken of the affected tooth. Technicians can then fabricate an inlay or onlay in the lab so that it fits perfectly to the damaged region and can be affixed without an invasive procedure. Instead, the dentist will fit and bond the molded piece so proper tooth function is restored. This type of restoration is called an indirect filling and should last for years without causing unnecessary pain, irritation, or discomfort.
When you have a tooth repaired, the dentist will determine whether an inlay or an onlay is a better fit. An inlay fits between the grooves around the cusps of your teeth. In other words, it “fits in” between preexisting cusps and damage but doesn’t cover the tooth’s original structure. An onlay will fit in the grooves but also cover and rise over the cusps, typically protecting the entire upper surface of a damaged tooth.
The main factor that determines whether you require an inlay or an onlay is how much of the tooth’s original structure remains behind following disease or decay. Someone who has more damage will require an onlay to restore proper function.