Onlays are the midway restoration between a dental filling and a Crown. Where a simple cavity in a tooth can be filled using a dental composite material during a single visit to the clinic, onlays differ from a standard filling in that a record of your specific, unique tooth structure will be taken during your initial visit, so that our skilled dental technicians can produce a custom-made restoration to completely reconstruct your tooth where more substantive tooth decay or damage has taken place.  

If your tooth has been weakened by extensive decay, fracture, or old, failing restorations then a large white filling will not be strong enough to protect your tooth in the long term. Onlays are made from the same strong ceramic material as crowns, but instead of needing to cover the entire tooth, are specifically formed to restore only the damaged chewing surface of the teeth in need of repair. Unlike with a full crown, an onlay requires much less preparation and re-shaping of your tooth, preserving more of your original tooth structure and making onlays a more conservative option, while still utilising the same extremely durable, natural-looking materials as dental crowns. 

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Who can benefit from a dental onlay?

  • If your tooth has sustained moderate to large areas of decay, an onlay is a timely intervention to halt the decay in its tracks and preserve your tooth
  • If you have a recently broken or fractured tooth in need of repair
  • If you have large, old, or failing fillings – particularly metal fillings - which can actually further damage and weaken teeth over time
  • If you wish to improve the appearance of your smile, dental onlays are a tooth-coloured option to restore a damaged tooth or replace an old filling, producing results that blend in perfectly with your natural teeth
  • If you have undergone recent root canal treatment or endodontic treatment and wish to conservatively restore the biting surface of your tooth

Benefits of Dental Onlays

  • Avoid the pain and discomfort associated with fracturing of a weakened tooth. Take action to preserve the structure of your tooth and strengthen your nerve’s defences, greatly reducing your need for a future root canal
  • Avoid the risk of unchecked decay ultimately leading to catastrophic failure of your tooth requiring dental extraction
  • Restore the natural shape and contour of your tooth, facilitating easier, consistent oral hygiene habits to safeguard the future health of your entire mouth
  • Greatly reduced tooth preparation required in comparison to a full crown restoration, making treatment with onlays an attractive and cost-effective option for many patients
  • Prolong the lifespan of your tooth by halting damage or decay early, and choosing this highly conservative treatment that conserves much of your natural tooth
  • Onlays are each custom-made to your exact measurements and needs, offering a highly aesthetically-pleasing dental solution

What to Expect When Getting a Dental Onlay

Initial consultation 

Once you’ve arrived for your initial appointment with Dame Street Dental, your dentist will discuss with you in detail the concerns that prompted you to come in, whether that is finding the cause of recurrent toothache or sensitivity, or to explore options for restoring teeth damaged or marred by decay, previous dental work, or old restorations.

Your dentist will then carry out a comprehensive dental examination, including the taking of specialised dental X-rays to assess your teeth and gums fully. They will then be able to discuss your specific case, your suitability for dental onlays, and their recommendations with you in full respect of your own ideal treatment and smile goals.

Only once you are satisfied with the proposed plan of action will your dentist devise a treatment plan for your case, which will contain a full breakdown of the total cost of your treatment. Our clinical and front of house team will be more than happy to go through all available payment plan options we offer to suit all budgets and needs, as well as schedule you in for your first of two appointments for onlay treatment.

Tooth preparation 

Your first of two visits to the clinic for treatment with dental onlays prepares your tooth to have the onlay placed. At this appointment your dentist will ensure your mouth is completely numbed prior to starting your treatment to ensure the entire procedure is fully pain-free.

However at Dame Street Dental we do also offer the option for any procedure to be carried out under Dental Sedation. Your dentist can discuss this with you during your initial consultation if this would be preferable for you, allowing even the most nervous patient to avail of high quality, modern dental care in a completely relaxed state free from anxiety or stress.

Your tooth will then be expertly prepared and shaped to make space for the dental onlay. Using our high-tech 3D Scanner your dentist will take a record of your freshly prepared tooth, which is then sent off-site to our dental technicians so they can begin fabricating your new restoration. To protect your tooth in this interim period your dentist will construct and place a temporary onlay, so you won’t have to think about your dental treatment until it’s time to return for your second and final appointment.

It will take between 2 to 3 weeks for your onlay to be fully completed at the lab, as your dentist and the technician collaborate on the bespoke fit and colouration, at which point once it is ready our team will schedule you to return to the clinic to have your permanent onlay securely fitted. 

Fitting your Onlay

At this second and final visit, your dentist will remove your temporary onlay and clean the tooth fully.

They will then try the new, permanent onlay at the site and assess the fit, contour, and overall appearance. Only once you are 100% happy with the feel and appearance of the tooth will they cement your onlay in place using a permanent dental cement. After some final checks of your bite and the removal of any excess cement, your treatment is complete and you are ready to show off your new smile!

Questions? Answers.

Should I get a filling, a crown or an onlay?

At Dame Street Dental your concerns, preferences, previous medical history, and lifestyle are always taken into account by your highly experienced dentist during your initial examination and consultation, so that they can advise you on the best solution for your specific situation.

Dental fillings work most effectively where you have a small cavity. As a cavity grows or deepens with time, a filling would not be able to withstand the strong forces it is placed under when you bite, which can lead to fracture of the filling or of the tooth itself, causing great discomfort or pain. 

A Dental Crown is employed in cases where the tooth has suffered more significant decay, to protect the tooth from fracturing. As they are much stronger than a dental filling, generally being made of dental ceramic rather than composite resins (as fillings are), crowns can protect a compromised tooth for up to four times as many years as a filling, on average. To fully replace the damaged area of the tooth and be bonded securely and effectively in place, they do require more natural tooth structure to be removed in preparation than is necessary in less severe cases.  

This is where the Dental Onlay comes into play – onlays are a high-strength, durable alternative, being made of the same materials as crowns, suitable for cases when a cavity is too large to be treated with a filling but where it is possible to preserve a greater amount of the original tooth than the more invasive crown procedure would allow.

Onlays are sometimes referred to as ‘partial crowns’ for this reason, offering the same benefits of long-lasting, effective, restorative results, which preserve your tooth against further damage from decay, while also using colour-matched ceramics to create a natural-looking, aesthetic appearance. 

What do Dental Onlays treat?

Onlays are a leading restorative dental treatment, best used to strengthen and restore the appearance of teeth damaged by mild to moderate decay, or in teeth which have been weakened due to a large filling. Onlays can also be used to replace old, particularly metal fillings, or teeth that are partially broken and require reconstruction following root canal treatment or after a fracture.

Is it painful to get a Dental Onlay?

No, as with all procedures at Dame Street Dental your dentist will ensure your mouth is completely numb prior to beginning your treatment – you will feel little more than gentle vibrations and pressure throughout.

For patients who are generally anxious at the thought of dental treatment or prefer increased reassurance in addition to our standard local anaesthetic that their procedure will be an entirely stress-free experience, we offer full dental sedation allowing even the most uneasy or nervous patient to receive dental treatment in complete relaxation. 

Can I whiten my Dental Onlay?

No, your Dental Onlay cannot be whitened by a tooth whitening treatment. However, the majority of onlays are placed on back teeth and molars, as the tremendous forces generated by eating in that zone call for a stronger, more durable restoration such as an onlay. Restorations of the back teeth are inconspicuous to begin with, and so will usually not be noticeable if you choose to whiten your teeth after having an onlay placed.

If your onlay is restoring a tooth in a more obvious position, or if you are concerned about this or simply would prefer, you can of course opt with your treating dentist to get teeth whitening treatment carried out before your onlay is fabricated and placed – allowing it to be colour-matched to the new shade of your smile. 

How long does it take to get a Dental Onlay?

After your initial consultation to prepare your full treatment plan with your dentist, two appointments are needed for you to receive your final onlay – a process that from start to finish will typically be completed within 4 weeks.

As your onlay is fabricated to fit your individual tooth at an external dental lab, it will take approximately 2 to 3 weeks to design and create. Once it has been made and returned to our clinic, your dentist will schedule your final appointment to fit and secure your onlay in place.

How do I look after my Dental Onlay?

You should treat your onlay just as you would a natural tooth. To prolong the life and health of not only your new onlay but your overall oral health, brushing twice daily and flossing once per day are essential oral hygiene habits to maintain.

You should also attend your dentist and hygienist regularly – your clinical team will be able to address any questions you have around recommended check-up frequency, although in general every 6 months is recommended. Eating a balanced diet that is low in sugar is also vital, to reduce your risk of re-developing dental decay or cavities and requiring further fillings or onlays in the future.  

How long will my Dental Onlay last?

If properly maintained and taken care of, your Dental Onlay can last up to 10 to 15 years, and sometimes even longer. These durable and robust restorations are frequently suited for use in the molars or back teeth, where they will be subject to the tremendous forces and pressure typical of this area of the mouth, but following an excellent oral hygiene routine and attending your dentist and hygienist for regular check-ups and cleanings will greatly boost your onlays lifetime and performance. 

Whether you need timely intervention for persistent tooth pain or discomfort, or know that it’s time to revamp, restore and strengthen your smile 

Call (0)1 525 2670 or book your initial consultation with one of our dedicated and experienced dentists to discuss Dental Onlay solutions today