As well as we try to take care of our teeth, occasionally, damage can happen to them. Minor decay in the form of cavities is usually treated with a dental filling. More serious damage or decay may call for a crown to be placed. However, sometimes the damage to the tooth falls somewhere in between, where a filling is not sufficient to treat the tooth, but a dental crown (which requires part of the tooth to be shaved down) is too much. In these cases, dental inlays or onlays can be the solution.
Both of these restorations are custom-made in a dental laboratory and effectively treat a damaged tooth, restoring its functionality and appearance.
Previously, dental inlays were made of gold, but today, they can be made with tooth-colored materials such as ceramic, porcelain, or composite. Inlays are used when the damage to the tooth occurs in between the cusp tips (in the center of the tooth). To have one placed, the decay will be removed from the tooth and cleaned. An impression will then be taken. This impression is sent to a dental lab where the inlay is custom-created. Once it’s finished, it will be bonded to the prepared tooth.
An onlay is used when treating the cusp of the tooth (or multiple teeth). The process for placing it is the same as for an inlay, with the tooth being cleaned and having the decay removed and an impression then being taken.