Difference Between Inlay and Onlay

Your dentist has told you that you need a tooth restored either because of a cavity or trauma.  There are five different types of restorative procedures.  They are:

  • Filling    The most basic dental restoration
  • Inlay      Typically used when the cavity is too large for a simple filling
  • Onlay    More than an inlay but not quite a crown
  • Crown   This replaces the entire visible part of the tooth
  • Implant  This replaces the entire tooth when the natural tooth is beyond saving

Similarities and Differences  

Both are custom fit restorations but differ in how much of the tooth is restored. Both are a specific type of dental restoration that restores a tooth by providing additional support without requiring the need to damage or destroy too much of the natural tooth. It is often recommended as a form of treatment when a patient has a situation where a composite filling won’t provide enough support to properly restore a tooth, but the damage isn’t so bad that it needs a dental crown.

Inlays and onlays are a solid, single piece of porcelain material that fit snuggly onto a tooth that has a hole left by tooth decay. There is a slight difference between an inlay and onlay. An inlay is shaped to fit the space that occurs near the center of a tooth, while an onlay is larger and fits over the biting surface or the space between teeth covering a cusp fracture.

Both inlays and onlays require two visits unlike a composite filling that is typically done in one visit.  The first visit is to allow Dr. Schmelter to prepare the tooth and take an impression of the tooth to send to the lab for fabrication.  You will come back for a second appointment for Doctor to cement or bond the custom porcelain restoration and make any necessary adjustments to your bite.

Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays are a conservative dental restoration option which preserves as much healthy tooth structure as possible. The benefits include:

  • Natural esthetics in color and form
  • Preserves as much natural tooth structure as possible
  • Strength and stability for larger cavity of fracture repairs
  • Prevents bacteria from forming and penetrating the tooth to create more decay because of the excellent seal of a custom restoration
  • Longer lasting than a regular composite filling and less staining

Not sure what type of dental restoration would be best for you?  Schedule a comprehensive oral examination to find out what your options are to improve your smile.