What Are Inlay and Onlay Dental Restorations?

Inlay and onlay restorations, sometimes referred to as dental inlays and onlays, are ceramic fillings. They are stronger than composite fillings, are more attractive, and more durable. Although composite dental fillings work great in many situations, inlays and onlays work best in others.

Although the restorations are very similar, we call them inlays when they fit entirely inside the higher portions around the top of your tooth, called the cusps. We call them onlays when they replace one or more of the cusps of your tooth.

When Are Inlays and Onlays Recommended?

Although composite dental fillings work great for many cavities, we often recommend inlays and onlays when you:

  • Need a large filling
  • Have a weakened tooth that needs additional support
  • Want the most attractive filling
  • Are replacing an old metal filling
  • Need significant restoration but don’t want a dental crown
  • Need significant restoration but don’t want a dental crown
  • Want the most attractive filling
  • Have a weakened tooth that needs additional support
  • Need a large filling
  • Are replacing an old metal filling

Dental composites work best for small cavities. When cavities get large, inlay and onlay dental restorations may work better. That’s in part because dental composites aren’t as strong as the ceramics used in inlays and onlays. The strong ceramic means that inlays and onlays can give support to a weakened tooth.

Inlays and onlays also look more like natural tooth materials than composite materials, so if you want to ensure your smile is beautiful despite fillings, they are the right choice.

Old metal fillings are unattractive and can make your teeth sensitive to temperature. If you’re replacing them, inlays and onlays are often the best choice.

Not all dentists have experience with inlays and onlays, so they’ll jump directly from a composite filling to a dental crown. However, there are many situations where a dental inlay or onlay can do the job well. If your dentist says you need a crown, but you don’t want one, talk to a dentist who offers inlays and onlays to see if that’s a viable alternative.

The Process for Inlay and Onlay Restorations

Inlay and onlay dental restorations take a little longer than composite restorations. However, they pay back the initial investment by being stronger, more attractive, and more durable than composite restorations. When used for a cavity that’s too large, composite restorations are prone to early failure, but ceramic fillings can fill large cavities and last for a decade or more.

Your Inlay and Onlay Evaluation

When your dentist finds a cavity during a checkup, they might recommend a composite filling, or they might recommend a dental inlay or onlay. This is based on the size of the filling and the condition of the tooth. If the filling will be large, but not too large, an inlay or onlay is recommended. Sometimes, the amount of tooth damage means a dental crown is a better option.

Preparing Your Tooth for an Inlay or Onlay Dental Restoration

Depending on the situation, your dentist may prepare your tooth for an inlay or onlay dental restoration at the time they discover the cavity. Often, though, it’s in a second appointment.

To prepare your tooth for inlay or onlay restoration, your dentist will remove damaged, decayed, or weakened tooth material, as well as any old filling that might be in place.

Then your dentist will take an impression of the prepared tooth. At South Bay Prosthodontics, we have a digital scanning tool. You don’t have to bite into impression material. We just wave a wand over your teeth to create a 3D dental impression of the tooth.

We’ll send the impression to the dental lab and fit you with a temporary inlay or onlay.

Final Fitting

Once your inlay or onlay is ready, you will come back to our office. We will test the fit and appearance of the restoration. If both you and your dentist are satisfied, then your dentist will bond the filling in place.

Woman smiling after receiving a dental treatment

Why Choose a Prosthodontist for Your Inlay and Onlay Restorations

Many dentists don’t have a lot of experience with dental inlays and onlays. They may not even think of this option when evaluating your cavities and may recommend a composite filling that’s too large to work effectively or a dental crown that is unnecessary.

Prosthodontists fully understand the benefits and limitations of all types of restorations. They will help you identify the best restoration for the best results. In addition, they are experts at designing and placing dental restorations, so they can ensure you get the best fit for your inlays and onlays so you get comfortable, attractive, and long-lasting results.

Get Dental Inlays and Onlays in Torrance, CA

If you are looking for strong, attractive, and long-lasting fillings in the Los Angeles area, choose a prosthodontist who knows how best to utilize inlays and onlays, like those at South Bay Prosthodontics.

Please call (310) 378-9261 or use our online form to request an appointment at our Torrance, CA, dental office.