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What is an inlay?

An inlay is a major restoration of a molar or bicuspid. As an alternative to traditional amalgam or white composite resin fillings, an inlay is a good choice to fill deep cavities or replace a defective filling.

Inlays are made from a block of ceramic that is carved to size, then inserted into the tooth. They can also be made of composite resin.

Inlays vs. traditional fillings

Inlays are more durable than traditional restorations and they can reinforce teeth. The seal with the tooth is better, so that cavities are less likely to recur.

An inlay can be used on a deep cavity or badly damaged tooth, avoiding the need for a crown. Crowns require removing a layer of enamel, so when possible opt for an inlay instead. It can reinforce the tooth while maintaining its natural integrity.

Advantages of ceramic inlays:

  • Last longer than composite
  • Reinforce teeth
  • Results are beautiful, because the ceramic perfectly matches the natural enamel colour
  • Teeth are no longer sensitive to heat
  • Very resistant material
  • Tight seal with the tooth, preventing bacteria infiltration
  • With CEREC technology, the installation is done in one appointment

Two options:

Depending on the affected area and the severity of the cavity:

Inlay

Placed inside a tooth, in the grooves of its chewing surface.

Onlay

Placed around the outside of a tooth. It covers one or several cuspids.

The procedure

This type of restoration is carefully designed and produced in a dental laboratory and usually requires two appointments. However, if CEREC technology is available, the process is much faster, requiring only one appointment.

1) First session: Prepping the tooth

  • Using local anaesthesia, the tooth is prepped
  • Any cavity or previous amalgam is removed
  • The space to fill is cleaned
  • A digital impression is taken to prepare a 3D model of the area to be restored. The information is used to create a perfectly-adjusted inlay
  • The prepped tooth is protected and reinforced by a temporary inlay, until the permanent inlay is ready
  • When done in the dental lab, the production of the inlay (ceramic or composite resin) takes one to two weeks

2) Second session: Installation

Once the inlay or onlay is ready, the dentist installs it:

  • The temporary restoration is removed
  • The dentists ensures a perfect fit between the restoration and the cavity—the inlay should fit like a puzzle piece
  • The restoration is secured in place using dental cement
  • It’s polished for optimal occlusion and comfort

Results

Inlays and onlays are good options because of the durability and strength they offer to badly damaged teeth. The results are both functional and beautiful. The restoration perfectly matches adjacent teeth in colour and in shape, so that it’s completely unnoticeable in your mouth.