Inlays and onlays are often referred to as partial crowns. They use the existing tooth as a base and fit the inlay or onlay onto the tooth. This is done to replace missing or damaged tooth structure, and to restore function. An inlay is placed when the area of concern is between the cusps of the tooth. An onlay is used when the damage involves the cusps and is a little more extensive.
The decayed area of the tooth is first removed during the procedure. A mold of the tooth is then made and sent to a dental lab. They create a restoration made from porcelain, gold, or a composite resin. The restoration takes about 2-3 weeks to make, so a temporary inlay or onlay will be placed on the tooth for that time. During your next visit the inlay or onlay will be secured to your tooth with an adhesive resin cement. Your tooth will be back to looking and functioning like new.