A dentist will often use an inlay or an onlay to repair a tooth’s biting surface instead of a crown or simple filling.
Inlays or onlays may be made from gold, porcelain or composite materials. Today, porcelain is often the best choice because of its strength and match to the natural tooth color.
Inlays are custom made to lie inside the cusps of a tooth. An onlay typically requires more reconstruction because it covers one or more cusps of the tooth. They are often used in place of crowns when possible because they leave more of the natural tooth.
The process for inlays and onlays requires the decay to be removed and the tooth is prepared for the inlay or onlay. An impression is made of the tooth which is then sent to a laboratory for the inlay or onlay to be fabricated. The dentist will then precisely fit the inlay or onlay and cement it in place.