Dental inlays and onlays are restorations used to repair back teeth that have a mild to moderate amount of decay. They can also be used to restore teeth that are cracked or fractured if the damage is not severe enough to require a dental crown. Inlays and onlays are usually made from porcelain or gold. Dental inlays and onlays made from durable, tooth-colored porcelain offer more enduring and natural-looking results than metal fillings. In addition, their customized nature allows dentists to securely bond them to the tooth surface, adding structural integrity and preventing bacteria from entering and forming cavities.
Whereas dental inlays are designed to treat decay within the cusps, or top projections, of a tooth, onlays are used to treat decay that extends to one or more of the cusps. Perhaps their most important benefit, however, is that, in saving damaged teeth, onlays help patients avoid the eventual need for more extensive treatment.