A bridge is a form of dental prosthetic that allows for the placement of an artificial tooth in an area where a healthy tooth used to exist.
When an entire tooth is lost, a bridge acts as a unifying device that supports the artificial tooth (called a pontic), eliminating the gap between adjacent teeth.
To accomplish this, the pontic needs to be joined to these adjacent teeth in order to stay in place. This is done through the use of either an inlay or onlay.
Inlays and onlays are tooth-colored fillings made in a lab. When used as support for a bridge, they act as connecting anchors for the artificial tooth.
An onlay is used when support is needed along a cusp (the raised points on the biting surface), whereas an inlay is used when support is required between these cusps.
To visualize how the function of these fillings change when used as an abutment for a bridge, it might help to think of them as the raised pins on upside-down version of a Lego® block – they help to keep the bridge secure once cemented to your healthy teeth.
In all, there are five surfaces of the tooth eligible for restoration: distal, occlusal, buccal, mesial, and lingual/palatal.
With this dental procedure code, an onlay is made from either porcelain or ceramic, and placed on three of those surfaces.
An onlay constructed of either of these materials yields positive cosmetic results, with porcelain creating a more natural look than the heavier look of full ceramic.
For this reason, an all porcelain onlay is typically used to repair decay on teeth within the smile-zone, whereas a fully ceramic onlay is most often used in the rear of the mouth.
To prepare for a three-surface bridge onlay, a dentist will first remove the portion of your healthy tooth to act as an abutment.
Then, depending on the process used by your dentist, either a physical impression of the tooth will be made, or 3D imaging will be used to render a digital impression.
Next, your dentist will likely fit you with a temporary onlay until your bridge completed.
Once the bridge with its extending onlay is ready for installation, it will be laid into the excavated area of the tooth and bonded, or cemented (luted), in place.
To look up and find more CDT dental codes from the American Dental Association, please visit our complete Dental Procedure Code Library.