What are the Benefits of Inlays and Onlays?

When Would I Need an Inlay?

An inlay is a dental restoration that is bigger than a filling but smaller than a crown. It protects the health and structure of a damaged tooth. If you have a cavity on the chewing surface of your tooth that is too large for a filling, your dentist may suggest an inlay. These restorations can be made of porcelain or ceramics and designed to match the tooth aesthetically.

When Would I Need an Onlay?

An onlay, like an inlay, is a dental restoration that is “in between” a filling and a crown. These are sometimes called “partial crowns.” The difference between an inlay and an onlay is that an onlay restores not only the chewing surface of the tooth, but also the cusp of the tooth. The cusp is the raised point on the tip of your tooth. If you need this restored or replaced, your dentist will most likely suggest an onlay. Like an inlay, an onlay can be made of porcelain or ceramics and created using either a physical impression or CEREC technology. Onlays protect the structure of your tooth, and they also restore its appearance.

What’s the Process like for Getting an Inlay or Onlay?

Because inlays and onlays are customized to fit your tooth, the process involved is more like that for a crown than for a filling. We create the inlay by taking a physical impression of your tooth or by using digital CEREC technology. If you choose to get a physical impression, the restoration will require two visits, because we will need to send the impression off to a lab to create the inlay/onlay. On the second visit, we will place the restoration. However, with our CEREC technology, we can make and place inlays and onlays in just one visit by digitally photographing the tooth and manufacturing the restoration right in the office. We place the inlay or onlay here in the office, using local anesthesia at the site. You may feel slight discomfort after the procedure, but this should subside within a day or two.

Why Not Get a Crown or a Filling?

If the damage to your tooth is not dramatic enough that a dental crown is clinically necessary, inlays and onlays are less costly. They are also much more durable than a filling, lasting up to 10 years (provided that you take good care of your teeth).