What are Dental Inlays or Overlays?

Dental inlays and overlays are used to fill or repair damaged teeth and have become popular because they are a cosmetically attractive way to enhance a person’s natural smile. A material is placed on the biting surface of back teeth and repairs are indistinguishable from the natural tooth surface.

Dental Inlay Repairs

Dental inlays are used to repair the biting surface of molars damaged due to cavities , replacing old metal fillings, or to repair a cracked tooth that is not damaged sufficiently to justify placing a crown.

Once the dentist determines that an inlay or overlay repair is needed, an impression will be taken of the tooth to be repaired. With the patient under anesthesia, the dentist will remove and clean the damaged portion of the tooth and place a temporary inlay or overlay on the tooth. The tooth impression will be sent to a laboratory to make a permanent inlay. On a second visit, the dentist will remove the temporary inlay and replace it with the custom-made permanent inlay.

Inlay and Overlay Materials

Dental inlays and overlays are made of porcelain or a composite resin. Porcelain inlays and overlays are becoming the most commonly used material, since this type of inlay or overlay is more easily matched to the natural color of the tooth, enhancing the smile of the patient.

Benefits of Dental Inlays and Overlays

  • Dental inlays and overlays appear like natural teeth and improve the overall smile.
  • Dental inlays and overlays are customized to fit the natural teeth and bond better than metal fillings.
  • Dental inlays and overlays strengthen teeth.
  • Dental inlays and overlays are extremely durable and can last up to 30 years.
  • Dental inlays and overlays look and feel like natural teeth, but do not stain.
  • Dental inlays and overlays preserve the remaining tooth.
  • Dental inlays and overlays work well for large cavities or significant repairs.

Maintenance of Dental Inlays and Overlays

Like most dental repairs, dental inlays and overlays require regular dental hygiene , including daily brushing and flossing. Routine visits to the dentist and teeth cleaning by a dental hygienist are highly recommended. Occasionally, an overlay or inlay will need repair.

Summary

Dental inlays and overlays are made of materials that are similar in appearance to the color of natural teeth and are used to repair cracks, fractures, cavities and other minor to moderate damage to back teeth. Because inlays and overlays are customized to fit the teeth, they bond better to the tooth and strengthen it much better than traditional metal fillings. Dental inlays and overlays are extremely strong and can last up to 30 years. They require regular dental maintenance, including periodic examination by a dentist and cleaning by a dental hygienist . Dental inlays and overlays have become very popular because they are a natural-looking enhancement to a person’s smile.