Often, we'll recommend tooth inlays or onlays to restore damage to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth. Both tooth inlays and onlays are pre-formed from molds, so they'll fit your tooth precisely. But what's the difference between the two? As the name implies, inlays fit within the grooves between the cusps of your tooth. Onlays fit within the grooves and wrap up and over the cusp tips, so they cover more of the tooth's surface. We'll carefully assess your unique situation, and then together decide which is most appropriate for you based on the amount of tooth structure lost to wear or decay.
Restoring a tooth with either tooth inlays or onlays takes two or more appointments to accomplish, since they are custom created in a dental laboratory to ensure a precise fit. During the first appointment, we'll carefully remove the decayed or damaged part of your tooth, then shape the remaining portion of the tooth so it can hold the inlay or onlay. We'll then take an impression of the damaged tooth and the teeth that surround it, as well as your bite. Dental lab technicians then build a model on the impression; this model is an exact duplicate of that particular part of your mouth. The lab then creates the inlay or onlay on that model. At your next visit, the inlay or onlay is placed on your tooth, and is adjusted for a precise fit. Once that's achieved, the restoration will be cemented permanently onto your tooth. It then will be polished, and your bite will be checked to ensure the best possible fit.
What Material is Used?
The teeth in the back of your mouth are used primarily for chewing, so it's vital that the material used for tooth inlays and onlays be strong enough to withstand frequent pressure. We will likely use alloy, a mixture of metals such as gold, palladium, nickel or chromium, if the tooth isn't seen when you smile. If the restoration is closer to the front of your mouth so it shows when you smile, we'll typically recommend a tooth-colored material. Ultimately, that choice will be yours. Thanks to state-of-the-art materials and precise techniques, we can restore decayed, damaged or worn teeth to near perfect condition with inlays or onlays.