Dental Inlays and Onlays

Dental Inlays

In the past, gold was cast to fit into teeth as a restorative material. Once the price of gold started to go up and newer materials that bonded to the tooth directly became popular, gold started to be used less and less. Today, very strong porcelain restorations called inlays can be used to actually strengthen a tooth, by holding the two halves of the tooth together when doing a wide filling that didn’t require the entire tooth to be drilled down.

The advantage of porcelain over composite fillings, gold, and amalgam was that it was strong, flexed closer to the flexing of natural enamel and was more color stable and natural looking than the other options. In addition, it didn’t stain like the composite bondings over time.

Dental Onlays

When a filing is large and includes one or more cusps, then the option of doing a porcelain onlay is frequently discussed. This is more conservative than a full coverage crown, and because it is bonded to the tooth, we don’t need to remove extra tooth structure simply for mechanical retention. An onlay mimics the strength and the look of the natural tooth very nicely. They are useful in specific situations where the chewing function and cusp location during chewing is not a significant stress factor as it cannot not be used every case that we restore a tooth.

Benefits of inlays and onlays:

  • They bond to the tooth and therefore actually improve structural integrity
  • Less chances of fracture and leakage at the corners as opposed to old amalgam fillings
  • Since they are bonded into or onto the tooth, the seal around the edge is stronger than simply a glued material or packed in filling.
  • They work better than trying to place a composite filling, if the decay went below the gumline and is in the wet oral tissues.
  • Ability to match the color of the actual tooth much better because of the glass and resin properties reflect much of the color from underneath and adjacent material supporting the restoration.
  • Onlays are often a preferred type of restoration because they are more conservative and preserve tooth structure when they are an option to a full coverage crown.

Onlays, inlays, and crowns are approximately the same fee, since they are all fabricated in the lab with an impression and require a preparation visit and a bonding visit. The onlays actually require a little more attention to proper technique since there is more concern on the design and exposure to chewing surfaces than with a crown.

If you are in the Muskegon area of Michigan, schedule an appointment with us at Lumbertown Dental Wellness and have Dr. James R. Donley give you the guidance you need in terms of deciding what would be the best type of restoration for your particular situation.