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Dental inlays and onlays are used to repair damage to a toothís biting surface and are amongst the strongest dental restorations available. Inlays and onlays can be made of gold, composite material, ceramic resin, or more commonly, porcelain which is both durable and very natural looking.

Similar to fillings, inlays sit inside the cusp tips of the tooth. However, they are custom-made and then cemented into place. An onlay is simply a more extensive reconstruction that covers one or more cusps of a tooth.

There are a variety of reasons why a dentist would recommend an inlay or onlay over a filling. They are long-lasting, better suited for large cavities, and offer a strong bond to the tooth. They are more conservative than a full crown, yet offer highly functional results in replacing old metal fillings or treating large areas of decay on a tooth. Oftentimes, an inlay or onlay can save a damaged tooth and prevent more extensive treatments such as crowns, bridges, or implants.

Dental Inlays and onlays also leave no room for bacteria to enter the tooth area which substantially reduces the possibility of future decay. Unlike metal fillings which contract and expand with food and beverage temperature, inlays and onlays are not affected by heat or cold. From an aesthetic perspective, they are not unsightly like amalgam fillings, donít stain, and can truly blend in with the rest of your teeth.

The Process
Both inlays and onlays require two dental visits. During the first visit, your mouth will be anesthetized, and the decay or old filling will be removed from the tooth much the same way your tooth would be prepared for a filling. Then, the dentist will make an impression of the tooth and send it to a dental lab where a custom-made inlay/onlay will be made. You will get a temporary sealant for your tooth until your next appointment when the inlay/onlay will be fitted.

At the second appointment, the temporary sealant will be removed, and the permanent one will be placed. Your dentist will make sure that it fits properly and doesnít hinder your bite. Once it is placed properly, the inlay/onlay will be bonded to the tooth with a strong resin and polished until it is smooth.

Caring for Inlays/Onlays
Dental inlays and onlays require good hygiene just like your natural teeth! Brush and floss daily, get regular dental checkups and cleanings, and contact your dentist if you detect any signs of problems. Avoid chewing ice or other hard substances to minimize any chance of breakage of the inlay/onlay.

Cost of Inlays and Onlays
As with most dental procedures, the cost of inlays and onlays vary widely depending on a variety of factors including the dentistís training, the expense of the dental lab, and the type of material used. In many cases, dental insurance will cover a portion of the cost. To find out if this treatment option is right for you, contact your dentist today. In many cases, inlays and onlays are highly effective solutions for larger cases of tooth decay, replacing old, unsightly metal fillings, and preventing the need for more expensive procedures down the road.

Decayed teeth may require an inlay to restore strength and health to the natural tooth structure.

The decayed portion of the tooth is removed from the sound tooth structure.
An inlay is fabricated to match the look and feel of your natural teeth. This restoration often resembles a puzzle piece. In most cases the restoration will completely blend into the natural tooth structure.