If you have a large area of decay that needs restoration, you do not necessarily need a crown. A more conservative option, inlays and onlays, fit into a tooth similarly to a filling, but they are milled restorations, much like a crown. The bumps on top of a tooth are called cusps. Inlays fit between cusps, while onlays fit over one or more cusp. Inlays and onlays allow a patient to retain more natural tooth structure than crowns, which is always best.
An inlay or onlay is not right for every situation, but the dentist assesses problems and determines the best solution. Because they are created in a lab like a crown, inlays and onlays require two appointments. At the first visit, we prepare your tooth by removing decay or old fillings and cleaning the area. We take dental impressions and send them to our lab where a technician creates a custom inlay or onlay. The dentist determines the best material to use, but in most cases, teeth that show when you smile or speak will have a tooth-colored restoration. Back teeth experience extreme pressure, so a metal inlay or onlay may be indicated. You’ll wear a temporary until the lab delivers your final restoration.
At the second appointment, the dentist removes the temporary and permanently cements the final inlay or onlay into position. After polishing and modifying the restoration as necessary to ensure proper bite alignment, you’ll enjoy your stronger, healthier smiles for years to come.