Inlays and onlays (also known as indirect fillings) can be used to restore areas of decay or damage that are too extensive to be treated with a normal filling and can provide a less invasive, more affordable alternative to a crown. A long-lasting restorative solution, they are usually placed in teeth at the back of the mouth or can be used to repair large areas on the front teeth.

Unlike a filling, inlays and onlays are created outside the mouth from an impression taken of the tooth. An inlay is cemented within the cavity and an onlay covers more of the tooth for when the repair needs to include one or more cusps (the points of the tooth), or fully cover the biting surface. They are made from hardwearing materials, including porcelain and composite resin, and if aesthetics is not an issue, gold can be used to provide a particularly durable restoration.

Benefits

  • Tailored to fit
  • More of the healthy tooth is preserved
  • Easier to keep clean
  • Protect and strengthen the tooth
  • More durable and stable than fillings
  • Natural-looking

Treatment steps

  • Any areas of decay or old fillings are removed and the tooth is cleaned.
  • An impression is taken and this is used by a dental laboratory to create the inlay or onlay so it will exactly match the area to be filled.
  • A temporary restoration is fitted so the prepared cavity can be protected while the inlay or onlay is being made.
  • When ready, the inlay or onlay is checked for fit and comfort, and then fixed permanently in place with a strong dental adhesive.

Aftercare

Inlays and onlays are very stable restorations that fit a damaged tooth perfectly to provide superior protection and the ability to withstand stronger chewing forces. The affected tooth requires minimal preparation and, as the inlay or onlay is tailored to fit, they can be easier to keep clean than other restorations. When properly maintained, with effective cleaning and regular check-ups, inlays and onlays can last for years.

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