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Question: What are inlays and onlays?

Answer: Inlays and Onlays are indirect dental restorations that are usually fabricated by a dental lab in order to replace missing tooth structure that resulted from a large area of decay, lost or failing filling, or broken portion of tooth structure. Inlays are restorations that are made to replace the missing tooth structure within the cusps of the tooth, while Onlays are restorations that are designed to extend over and around the missing tooth structure when one or more of the tooth’s cusps are compromised. These restorations are like puzzle pieces of tooth structure that get bonded or cemented into place to fill in the missing areas. They are utilized when the amount of missing tooth structure is too large to place a simple filling, but there is enough tooth structure left to avoid having to do a crown. Inlays and Onlays can be made from a tooth-colored ceramic/porcelain material or from a metal such as gold. The tooth colored inlays and onlays can look so natural and esthetic that it is often difficult to find where the restoration ends and the tooth structure begins.

Question: What is involved in making an Inlay or Onlay?

Answer: Inlay and Onlays typically require two appointment visits set about 2 weeks apart. During the first visit the tooth is prepared (removing any decay, old fillings and weakened, fractured areas), than an impression is taken, and a temporary filling is placed. On the second visit, the temporary filling is removed, and the restoration is tried in and inserted. Local anesthesia is typically given for this procedure, and once it wears away, normal chewing function can resume.

Question: Are there any eating restrictions once I have my Inlay or Onlay placed?

Answer: It is recommended that you avoid foods that are extra chewy or sticky such as toffees or caramels that will have a lot of upward force on these restorations. Over time they could break that cement seal (especially if metal was used as the Inlay or Onlay material), and cause it to come out. Tooth colored restorations are bonded, and less likely to come out, but caution should still be taken. Additionally, it is recommended to avoid chewing on hard substances such as ice, hard candies, or certain nuts and seeds, which can exert too much force on the compromised tooth. Gentle test bites should be taken before vigorous chewing to avoid biting down on an un-popped kernel of popcorn or a bone, etc.

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