Posts for: July, 2014

By Brookside Dental Care
July 17, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: fillings  
FrequentlyAskedQuestionsaboutInlaysandOnlays

Q: I’ve never heard these terms used in dentistry. What are they?
A: In the decorative arts, an inlay refers to a small piece of distinctive material that’s set into a larger matrix: a mother of pearl accent worked into the lid of a wooden box, for example. In dentistry, it means something similar: a filling (or restoration) that’s fabricated in a dental laboratory, and then set into a tooth in an area that has been damaged or lost.

Q: What’s the difference between inlays and onlays?
A: An inlay is made to fit in between the cusps (small points or ridges) of a back tooth (molar or premolar), and it covers only a small region of the biting surface of the tooth. If the restoration covers one or more of the cusps, it’s an onlay.

Q: Why would I need to have one of these restorations?
A: When a tooth has suffered damage (from decay or trauma, for example), and the affected area is too large to fill with a simple filling — but not large enough to need a full crown (cap) — then an inlay or onlay may be just right. Both of these procedures are considered “indirect fillings,” because the restoration itself is custom-fabricated in a laboratory and then bonded to the tooth in the dental office.

Q: What is the procedure for getting an inlay or onlay?
A: It’s similar to having a crown placed, in that it typically takes more than one office visit — yet an inlay or onlay involves less removal of tooth structure than a crown would require. On the first visit, after the area has been anesthetized (usually with a numbing shot), any decay is removed, and the tooth is shaped to receive the restoration. Next, a model of the tooth is made (either with putty or in digital form), and the tooth receives a temporary filling. The laboratory uses this model to create the actual inlay or onlay, which may take a few days; it is then permanently attached to the tooth on a second visit to the office. However, with today’s advances in CAD/CAM (computer aided design/ manufacturing) technology, some inlays or onlays can be made in the office and placed in the same visit.

Q: What else do I need to know about these tooth restorations?
A: Both inlays and onlays are strong and long-lasting restorations that need no more care than you would normally give your teeth: namely, regular brushing and flossing, and periodic checkups at our office. But because they don’t require the removal of a great deal of natural tooth material, they are considered relatively conservative treatments. After a thorough dental examination, we can recommend the type of tooth restoration that’s most appropriate in your individual circumstances.

If you’d like to find out more about inlays or onlays, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers” and “The Natural Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings.”


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Nolan Gould of the hit TV show Modern Family has an uncommon gift for comedy, but he also has a very common orthodontic problem: too many teeth for the size of his mouth, which often results in “crowding.”

“My teeth used to be pretty messed up,” Nolan recently told Dear Doctor magazine in an exclusive interview. “I had two extra teeth when I was born. They hadn't come out (erupted) yet. And all the other teeth that were already there were starting to point backwards because it was getting so crowded in my mouth. They had to remove those two (extra) teeth,” he said.

Although being born with extra teeth is somewhat unusual, needing to have teeth extracted for orthodontic reasons is not. In fact, orthodontic treatment often involves removing teeth to relieve crowding. It makes sense when you think about it: When there are too many teeth for the size of the dental arches (upper and/or lower jaws) or the teeth are larger in size than the dental arch can accommodate, there may not be enough space to align them properly. The necessary space can be created by removing teeth.

The teeth most frequently extracted for orthodontic reasons are the first bicuspid teeth. These are the ones right between the cuspid, or eyeteeth (under the eyes) and the molars (biggest back teeth). Once there is enough space, the orthodontist can choose from a variety of orthodontic appliances to align the teeth, depending on the specific needs of the individual.

In Nolan's case, it was the extra two teeth he was born with that were removed. Afterwards, the young actor's orthodontist was able to shift Nolan's remaining teeth into proper alignment using orthodontic appliances called Crozats. Made of metal wires, Crozats go around the back teeth and behind the front teeth, making them virtually invisible.

“You can remove them, which is really good for acting, especially because you can't see them,” Nolan explained. “I can wear them 24/7 and nobody will ever notice.”

Nolan's orthodontic appliances may not be noticeable, but his fabulous smile certainly is!

If you would like to learn more about improving tooth alignment with orthodontics, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Nolan Gould, please see “Nolan Gould.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Tooth Removal for Orthodontic Reasons.”