When more than half of a tooth’s biting surface is damaged or decayed, your dentist may use inlays or onlays to rebuild the damaged surface and strengthen the tooth.

Dental inlays and onlays are similar to fillings. They fill a cavity in a tooth caused by decay, but they allow more of the natural tooth to remain untouched, preserving its structural integrity. They are sometimes used to replace old metal fillings, or to repair cracked or broken teeth.

The difference between inlays and onlays is their size. An inlay fits into the grooves that are within the cusps of your teeth. The larger onlay fits within those grooves but also wraps up and over the cusps to cover more of the surface of the tooth. Onlays are typically used when the damage to the tooth is more extensive.

Inlays and onlays can be made from a variety of materials, but the most common are gold and porcelain.  Although gold has traditionally been considered the best material because of its fit and longevity, porcelain is popular because it has a natural appearance and can be matched to the color of your teeth. However, porcelain is more susceptible to breaking and may have to eventually be replaced.

When the damage to your tooth is not extensive enough  to warrant a crown, an inlay or onlay is an excellent alternative that can actually increase the strength of your tooth and last for as long as 20 years.

Schedule an appointment at Naples General & Cosmetic Dentistry to find out if inlays or onlays may be the right solution for you.