Inlays & Onlays
What Is an Inlay or Onlay?
An inlay is an indirect dental restoration that is made to restore less than one cusp of a tooth. An onlay is an indirect dental restoration that is made to restore one cusp or more of a tooth.
What Is a Cusp?
To understand what inlays and onlays are it is first important to understand what the cusp of a tooth is. In dental terminology, the word cusp is used to describe an occlusal or incisal eminence of a tooth. Another way of saying this is, a cusp is a point on your tooth. Some teeth have a single point, like the ones in the front, some have multiple points, like your molars.
Indirect Dental Restorations
It’s also important to understand the difference between the two kinds of dental restorations—direct and indirect restorations. Indirect restorations are crafted outside the mouth of the patient, usually in a dental lab, using an impression or mold of the tooth to create a restoration that will fit perfectly into the tooth. Direct restorations are applied as a putty or resin to the tooth and shaped and molded within the confines of the tooth, like a dental filling. Inlays and onlays are indirect dental restorations.
The Process for Receiving Inlays and Onlays
The process for receiving an inlay or onlay is very similar to that of receiving a dental crown, which is another indirect dental restoration. The first step is to ensure the comfort of the patient by administering some local anesthetic and any sedation they prefer. Sedation isn’t necessary for the placement of inlay or onlays, but many find the process more comfortable under some light sedation. The second step is to prepare the tooth for the restoration with a special dental drill to remove the damaged portion of the tooth. The drill allows us to remove parts of the tooth that are infected by decay-causing bacteria, or parts of the tooth that have been damaged by physical trauma.
After the tooth has been prepared to receive the restoration, we will take an impression of the tooth that we will send to our dental laboratory, where they will craft a custom-made inlay or onlay for the tooth. We will place a temporary restoration in your tooth while we wait for the permanent one to be made at the dental lab. This will conclude your first visit.
When we receive the restoration back from the dental lab, it will be time for the second appointment. We will remove the temporary restoration and place the permanent one, being careful to make sure it fits properly within your tooth and your bite.