An inlay or onlay is often referred to as a partial crown or an indirect filling. What exactly does that mean you might be wondering?
Inlays and onlays are fabricated in a dental lab and are then bonded to the affected area of the tooth. The beauty of these treatments is the dentist does not have to remove as much of the natural tooth structure as is required for traditional fillings.
While a traditional filling is used to fill the cavity that is left behind after the dentist removes the decay, an inlay or onlay is made to fit the small points (or cusps) of specific teeth.
An inlay is used for teeth in the back of the mouth (premolars or molars) while onlays are used for teeth in other areas of the mouth. Both help prevent additional damage to a tooth that has been mildly damaged by decay.
When there is no damage to the cusp of the tooth, an inlay can be used. The inlay is placed right on the tooth. An onlay is used when a tooth has more extensive damage.
The process begins by removing the decayed area. A mold is prepared and sent to a dental lab for fabrication. The restoration is created from porcelain, gold or a composite resin. The restoration takes about 2 to 3 weeks to create. In the meantime, a temporary inlay or onlay will be made for the patient until the permanent version is ready.
The permanent inlay or onlay will be placed and set with an adhesive cement and your tooth will regain its natural look.