Inlays & Onlays

What is the difference between an Inlay and an Onlay?


While the same type of material is used for both inlays and onlays, a few differences makes each one unique. In most cases, an onlay sits on top of the tooth and slightly covers one or more cusps to ensure stability and strength when biting. Rather than placing a traditional filling inside a tooth, inlays are often used as a stronger alternative to fill the space left by decay inside the tooth. Aside from these minor details, both procedures are essentially the same.

Why and When are Onlays a good option?

Patients most often benefit from a dental onlay when over more than 50 percent of a tooth’s biting surface is missing or damaged.

Unlike the strength-reducing impact of filling a severely damaged tooth, inlays and onlays can actually make your tooth up to 75 percent stronger. Not only does that mean your tooth may last for decades, it can also reduce the likelihood of requiring a more costly future restoration, such as a dental crown.

What can I Expect?

Much as with a crown, inlays and onlays generally require two appointments. The initial visit consists of repairing the damaged tooth in preparation for the inlay/onlay. After repairing the tooth, your dentist will take an impression to ensure proper fit and bite of the inlay or onlay. You will leave our office with a temporary sealant designed to protect your tooth prior to your next visit. At your second appointment one of our dentists will check your inlay or onlay for proper fit, then bond it to your tooth.

If you have a broken or damaged tooth, you should come in for an appointment as soon as possible to prevent further damage and more involved work to repair it. Often, enough of the tooth can be saved such that an inlay or onlay is a viable option.

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