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Inlays and Onlays

Dr Tuckett wants all of his patients to understand all of the treatment options that we offer, so that they can play an active role in any restorations or procedure that are performed for them. One dental restoration that many patients don’t fully understand is inlays and onlays. Inlays/onlays are very similar to fillings in that they restore damaged and infected teeth to a more healthy, stable state. What are inlays/onlays, how do we place them, and how to they help you? Let’s take a look.

Direct and Indirect Restorations

All dental restorations fall into one of the two following categories – direct or indirect. The classic example of a direct dental restoration is a composite or amalgam filling. The composite or amalgam material is prepared while we clean up the tooth in preparation for the filling application. Once all of the damage or infection is removed, we will apply the amalgam or composite material directly to the tooth in a liquid or putty form. We will mold and sculpt the filling material while it is in your tooth.

An indirect dental restoration requires a few extra steps when compared to a direct restoration. When preparing an inlay or onlay, we will first prepare the tooth by removing any infection or damage from it. Once the tooth is prepared, we will take an impression of it. This impression will be sent to our dental lab where it will be custom crafted to fit in the patient’s tooth. It may take a week or two for the inlay/onlay to be crafted, during which time we will sometimes fit patients with a temporary restoration to protect their tooth. When we receive the inlay/onlay back from the dental lab, it will be time for the patient to return to our office where we will place it permanently in their tooth.

What is a Cusp?

To understand what inlays and onlays are, you need to understand what the cusp of a tooth is. The word cusp, when applied to teeth, is used to describe an occlusal or incisal eminence on a tooth. Consider a canine tooth – they have one point, which we refer to as their cusp. Now consider a molar -they have multiple points, all of them their cusp. Now that we understand what a cusp is let’s find out about what inlays and onlays are.

The Difference Between Inlays and Onlays

An inlay is what we call an indirect dental restoration that restores less than a single cusp of a tooth. An onlay is what we call an indirect dental restoration that restores one cusp of more of a tooth. Essentially, the size of the restoration determines what we call it – the smaller restorations are called inlays, and the larger ones are called onlays.

They can be made of a variety of materials, including:

  • Gold
  • Porcelain
  • Metal fused with porcelain
  • Ceramic like zirconia
  • Metal fused with ceramic

Call us today at (480) 545-8700 to schedule an appointment.