Restorative dentistry refers to a group of procedures including implants, inlays, onlays, and dentures. These oral devices are called restorations, because they restore the function and appearance of the mouth. In some ways, restorative dentistry overlaps with cosmetic dentistry as the restorations improve appearance as well as treating a condition.
Both inlays and onlays are similar to fillings and are used on particularly large areas of decay in a tooth. They may be made from porcelain, gold, or composite, just like fillings. The difference is that the restoration is not created immediately in the dentist’s office and can be used on larger areas of damage.
For extensive decay within the cusps (projections from the chewing surfaces) of the tooth, an inlay is used. An onlay is used for teeth with decay that extends to one or more of the cusps and is somewhat moreextensive. Either procedure requires a local anesthetic prior to the dentist drilling out the decayed area. For an onlay, the cusps are also reduced. A mold is made of the teeth and sent to a lab to create the inlay or the onlay. Porcelain is the most popular choice, as it mimics the color and shine of a natural tooth. A temporary restoration protects the tooth from damage until the inlay or onlay is fabricated. A second visit to the dentist is needed to place the restoration. It is then fitted and then bonded to the tooth before polishing it. Any shaping or adjustments are made at this visit.