When restoring a damaged tooth, dental inlays and onlays fall half-way between fillings and crowns. They can be used to repair back teeth that have been fractured or chipped, to replace older large fillings that might have fallen out, or to repair damage caused by moderate levels of decay.
When sufficient structure remains we prefer to preserve as much of the original tooth structure as possible, only replacing the damaged area. More durable than a filling and less intrusive than a crown, we often recommend inlays or onlays as a long-term solution when there is only moderate damage to the surface of the tooth.
The difference between an inlay and an onlay is in the shape and position. An inlay is used to replace the central section of a damaged tooth whereas an onlay extends over the whole of the affected tooth. In some cases an onlay can be created to replace the full biting surface of the tooth.
The method is the same for both procedures. We take an impression of the existing tooth which our local laboratory technicians use as a template for the replacement section of tooth. Made from a strong ceramic material, the replacement is carefully matched to the original in both shape and colour. This is bonded into place to provide a strong and effective solution to its natural function.
Once in place inlays and onlays can be cared for by brushing and flossing, in exactly the same way as natural teeth.
A dental inlay or onlay provides an ideal solution when there is too much tooth loss for a filling but the tooth is not sufficiently damaged to require a crown.