The Inlays and Onlays Restorative Dentistry Procedure

Dec 14, 2015 @ 10:00 AM — by Neil L. Starr, DDS

Laughing young woman in a hammock Inlays and onlays are an important component of restorative dentistry. Because these custom-designed restorations are smaller than crowns, they perform a similar function but require less alteration of your teeth. Therefore, the inlays and onlays procedure is quick and involves minimal discomfort. At his Washington, DC practice, Dr. Starr uses an on-site lab to create all restorations. By coordinating with our Master Laboratory Technician, he can ensure a realistic look and fit for your inlay or onlay. Before recommending treatment, Dr. Starr will carefully evaluate your tooth and health needs to determine whether this option is right for you.

What Are Inlays and Onlays?

Inlays and onlays are placed on top of damaged or decayed teeth. In this way, they can repair their appearance and function. In contrast to crowns, however, inlays and onlays are much smaller, and they are designed only for the molars. An inlay will nestle in the space between your tooth cusps, while an onlay will cover the cusps and part of the walls of your tooth. Because onlays are bigger, some practitioners refer to them as “partial crowns.”

Inlays and onlays can perform a wide range of functions. However, they are most often used to treat decayed teeth that are too damaged for a routine filling. In some cases, Dr. Starr may use an inlay or onlay to repair a cracked tooth.

Prepping Your Tooth

To begin, Dr. Starr will numb your tooth and the nearby gums. He will clean out all decay and damaged tissue, using gentle techniques for minimal discomfort. Then he will reshape the top of your molar to make room for the inlay or onlay. He will work conservatively, removing the smallest amount of tissue possible to accommodate the restoration.

Designing and Crafting Your Restoration

Next, Dr. Starr will take impressions of your tooth. Often, he will take digital impressions so that our Master Laboratory Technician, Dr. Jose Lara, can design your restorations chairside. Through this process, you will remain an integral part of your treatment planning. You can ask questions and stay completely up-to-date about your care. When the designs are finished, our lab technicians will create them onsite. They will carefully select a color of porcelain that will match your smile. Dr. Starr and the technicians will also make sure that the restoration maintains your overall bite alignment. Even a tiny alteration can dramatically affect your oral health and increase your risk for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Therefore, they will work tirelessly to ensure your ongoing wellness.

While you are waiting for the lab to craft your restoration, Dr. Starr can provide a temporary inlay or onlay. This will prevent dental sensitivity and help you maintain your oral function while you wait.

Attaching Your Inlay or Onlay

Once your inlay or onlay is finished, you will come back in for a second appointment, and Dr. Starr will attach the restoration. He will apply a bonding agent to your tooth. Then he will use tooth-colored composite resin to affix the porcelain or composite. Once your inlay or onlay is in place, your full oral function should return quickly.

Contact Us for a Consultation

If you have a damaged molar, contact Dr. Starr’s office to find out if an inlay or onlay is appropriate for you.

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