Onlay Preparation and Expectations

Onlays are dental restorations for teeth that have cavities. Usually the process to fit them takes place at least two dental visits. At the first visit, the dentist performs the onlay preparation, and at the second visit they fit the permanent onlay restoration.

Preparation Visit for Onlays

Onlays are pre-molded tooth restorations that fit when on the chewing surface of a cavity and extends over the biting surface(s) of the tooth. Your dentist might decide to fit an onlay because the tooth structure is weak and they suspect it would crack if filled with a regular filling. Alternatively, they may choose to use an onlay instead of a crown to avoid removing healthy tooth structure.

To fit an onlay, your dentist must first prepare your tooth. The Consumer Guide to Dentistry explains the process, which takes place over one dental visit. First, the dentist injects a local anesthetic to numb the tooth. Then they clean out the cavity down to healthy tooth structure. If the cavity is large, expect a longer visit to give the dentist time to remove all of the decayed or damaged areas of the tooth. Next, the dentist takes a dental impression of the tooth. Finally, to protect your tooth while you wait for the permanent onlay to be made, the dentist makes and fits a temporary onlay on the tooth.

After, the dentist sends the impression to a dental laboratory to fabricate the permanent onlay which may take 7-10 days.

Temporary Onlay Care

To prevent dental problems like pain and tooth misalignment, you must take special care of your temporary onlay. If the temporary restoration falls out, it leaves the inside of the tooth unprotected, and exposed tooth nerves can be painful. What's more, the surrounding teeth can drift into the area of the affected tooth. If you have a temporary onlay, you should always return to have the permanent restoration fitted. While you wait for that appointment, avoid flossing around the affected tooth or chewing on sticky or hard foods. Rinse with a mouthwash like Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield,which kills 99 percent of germs on contact and offers 12-hour protection against germs even after drinking and eating.

Fitting the permanent onlay takes place at the second dental visit. When the permanent restoration arrives, your dentist will remove the temporary onlay. They clean the tooth and insert the permanent onlay. ACE Dental Education explains that the dentist checks that the new restoration fits correctly and doesn't affect your bite. When the fit is good, the dentist permanently bonds the onlay to the tooth.

Onlay Benefits

Onlays offer the benefits of strengthening teeth and providing an attractive cosmetic finish. Porcelain and ceramic onlays are effective tooth restorations for front teeth because they can be stained to match the rest of the affected and surrounding teeth. Additionally, according to the American College of Prosthodontists, porcelain and ceramic onlays allow the dentist to bond the onlay to the tooth, creating an effective seal. Molars and pre-molars aren't as visible, so gold or resin are the best materials because they are strong and durable.

Onlay preparation takes one dental visit, plus another visit for placement of the onlay and the restoration will last for years. When the permanent onlay is fitted, the tooth is stronger and looks better. Your dentist can advise if an onlay is the best treatment for you.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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What to Expect During a FILLING

  1. Local anesthesia – at the beginning of your filling procedure, you may be given local anesthesia to numb the area around the tooth.

  2. Tooth decay removal – then the dentist will cut through the enamel using a drill to remove any decay. After the dentist removes the decay, the dentist will shape the space to ready it for the filling.

  3. Etching – for a bonded filling your dentist will etch the tooth with an acid gel before placing the filling.

  4. Resin application – for certain types of fillings the dentist will layer on the resin and harden it using a bright light. This makes it strong.

  5. Polishing – after the filling has been placed, your dentist will polish the tooth.