Dental Inlays and Onlays

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Dental inlays and Onlays are alternative options for fillings and tooth restoration. So, what is the difference between an inlay and an Onlay? Well, as the name implies, an inlay goes in the tooth to restore it, while an Onlay goes in a tooth, but also covers the surface or cusp of the tooth. It’s similar to having a crown placed to replace a cavity, decay, or other damage to a tooth.

What is Dental Inlay?

Dental inlays are a form of a filling or restoration. Inlays are made up of tooth-colored material, usually ceramic, porcelain, amalgam, or another dental composite. Gold inlays are also an option—they are incredibly durable but also costly. Gold fillings have become increasingly unpopular because of the unique look they provide and the excessive price. A majority of inlays are made to look like natural teeth.

How is a Dental Inlay Made?

An inlay is made from a mold of the tooth—fitted to the exact grooves and fissure of a tooth. While a patient is numb, a dentist will drill into the tooth to effectively remove decay and clean it out. An inlay can then be placed to repair that drilled surface. Inlays are a more durable filling option—they can last much longer.

Why Get Dental Inlays?

If a filling has become defective or looks unsightly, an inlay may be the answer. Inlays provide nearly invisible restoration and repair the chewing surface of a tooth. Inlays can not only restore a chewing surface, but it can also strengthen a tooth and act as a sealant.
Inlays are the way to go if the biting surface has been broken or decay, but the cusp of the tooth has not been affected. If the damage requires a larger than average filling or there is not enough of the natural tooth left to support a crown, inlays are an excellent option.

What is Dental Onlay?

A dental onlay is another method to replace tooth damage or decay—however, unlike an inlay, an onlay affects the cusp of the tooth. A dentist will drill out any decay and clean out the cavity entirely, take an impression of the tooth, and then place a temporary onlay. A permanent onlay is then made from the impression and place in the next visit to the dental office.

Why Get Dental Onlays?

Onlay fit inside of the tooth, similar to inlays, but they extend beyond the cusps. This makes them a more viable option if there has been extensive damage. Onlays can also make for a stronger tooth. They are typically made with similar materials to inlays, and also made to be tooth-colored.