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Inlays? Onlays?

You may have heard these terms mentioned at your dental practice and wondered what on earth they are.   Here is, hopefully, a simple guide to demystify these dental terms:


An inlay is very similar to a filling and can be used an alternative to a filling to restore a hole in your tooth as a result of decay.   It is usually bigger than a filling so perhaps where the decay is quite substantial.   The material used in a filling is usually either amalgam (silver) or composite (white). An inlay lies within the cusps (bumpy parts) of the tooth.  An inlay is made of porcelain,more often than not, or occasionally gold.  Your dentist may suggest an inlay instead of a filling in cases where the decay is quite extensive or as a means of preserving longevity of the tooth.   Porcelain inlays are much stronger and harder wearing than traditional fillings and can, if looked after properly, last many years.   They are a particularly good alternative for your molars (back teeth) due to the amount of chewing they do and therefore the amount of pressure they are put under.


An onlay is similar to an inlay in that it too, is made of porcelain or gold.   However the onlay, as the name suggests, is placed over the edges of one or more of the cusps to replace them.  This is not to be confused with a crown which covers all surfaces of the tooth.  Your dentist may suggest an onlay instead of a crown in circumstances where he/she thinks more of the tooth’s natural surface can be preserved.

Both inlays and onlays will require two visits to the dentist. The first visit will be to remove the decay and to make an impression of the prepared tooth. The tooth will have a temporary filling placed on it whilst the impression is sent to a dental laboratory who will make the inlay/onlay. The second visit will involve removing the temporary filling and cementing the inlay/onlay onto the prepared tooth, which if look after well, can last for many years.

For further information or advice contact College Street Dental Centre in Petersfield, Hampshire on 01730 263180


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