What’s The Difference Between Inlays and Onlays?


Most people are familiar with dental crowns. Crowns are used when the damage to the tooth is severe. There are, however, other options if the damage is not as drastic as to require a crown. Inlays and onlays can be used to repair the tooth. Unlike a filling, however, they normally require two office visits, one to make the mold and then another to apply them. They are a better alternative to a filling because a filling can weaken a tooth whereas an inlay or an onlay can actually strengthen the tooth structure. Inlays and onlays are also good options to replace large old metal fillings because they are the actual tooth color as well. While they are similar, there are some differences between inlays and onlays.

Whether it is inlays or onlays, we at Kantor Dental Group in San Rafael can help determine your dental needs. Give us a call at San Rafael Office Phone Number 415-492-1616 or use our Appointment Request Form to schedule an appointment.

What are inlays?

Inlays repair the surface of teeth. Inlays are used when there is decay within the cusps of your teeth. The cusps are the bumps on your back teeth. There are different options for the material of your inlay, such as porcelain, composite resin, or even gold. The first two options can be matched to the rest of the tooth so that visually you cannot even tell there was ever anything wrong with the tooth. Inlays are incredibly durable and will not crack your teeth if exposed to hot and cold. Some dental offices are equipped to make inlays on a same day appointment, but many will send the mold out to laboratory to create your inlay and this will take two appointments. The onlay will be bonded to the tooth on the second visit and the dentist will ensure everything is okay with your bite and the margins of the onlay are smooth.

There are numerous benefits to inlays, many of which were mentioned above such as the fact that they strengthen teeth and are better than fillings. Inlays match the color of the tooth, unless gold is chosen, and provide a natural look. Inlays are also one of the best options to preserve the tooth and give it the greatest life expectancy. Inlays are tailor made and fit the tooth so well that care of the tooth is easier. Inlays are less expensive than crowns and if they are an option should definitely be considered as they save as much of the healthy tooth as possible.

What are onlays?

Onlays are incredibly similar to inlays except they are located in a different area of the tooth and treat larger areas. Sometimes onlays are referred to as partial crowns because they can cover a fairly extensive area of the tooth. Unlike inlays, which are located on the cusps, onlays are located on the biting surface and extending to one or more cusps. Like inlays, onlays can be made of porcelain, composite resin, or gold. Onlays are better than crowns because even though there is more damage to the tooth than with an inlay, more of the healthy tooth can still be saved as opposed to a crown. Just like with inlays, onlays can also be used to replace old metal fillings and create a beautiful replacement that matches that tooth and the surrounding teeth.

Inlays and onlays are both excellent alternatives to the drastic nature of crowns. They both save the most amount of healthy tooth possible and have a natural look that matches the rest of your smile. Not only do they do this, but are less costly as well, which can mean a lot for individuals who do not have dental insurance. Unfortunately, they are not an option in all cases. If the damage to the tooth is severe, an inlay or an onlay may not be a viable choice and a crown will need to be considered. In many cases, however, an inlay or an onlay can be a great choice. You and your dentist can discuss your needs and decide which course of treatment will be best as well as what material you would like to use. If you choose an inlay or an onlay, you can most likely expect two office visits to complete the procedure.

If you have questions about inlays or onlays, contact us today. We’d be glad to answer your questions.