Dental inlays and onlays are regularly used on the rear teeth and lie somewhere between a filling and a dental crown.
Whilst it is not uncommon to see gold inlays and onlays, ceramic is the most widely used material as it can be produced to match the exact colour of the patient's teeth.
Inlays are designed to fit into the cavity of a tooth whereas onlays are used to replace the surface and top of a tooth. Once fitted, this method of restoring a tooth can last for many years, often decades. This will though depend on each individual case and can also be affected by the patients eating habits including the amount of force that they use to chew their food.
To fit an onlay or inlay usually takes two dental visits. During the first of these, the damaged section of a tooth will be removed and the remaining tooth then shaped in order to get the best possible shape for the greatest strength of the tooth once the inlay or onlay has been fitted. A mould will then be taken of the tooth as well as of the bite. This mould will then be sent to a dental laboratory for the inlays or onlays to be produced.
During the second visit, the inlays or onlays will be applied to the prepared tooth and bound securely in place.
There should be no pain felt during this procedure as during the removal and shaping of the damaged tooth, a local anaesthetic will be given which numbs the area.
Inlays and onlays provide great benefit to a person's teeth as they provide extra strength and the fact that the ceramic can be coloured to match the patient's teeth means that, unlike amalgam fillings, they are more aesthetically pleasing.
By using dental inlays or onlays, it is estimated that the strength of a tooth can be improved by approximately 75% leaving a strong and functionally healthy tooth which should last for many years to come.