What are Inlays and Onlays?

Many people have heard of fillings, which are one of the most common restorative dental treatments used by dentists today. Fillings are used to address small to moderate areas of decay on the teeth. As their name suggests, they ‘fill’ the cavity left by decay, restoring the function of the tooth and preventing the decay from penetrating further. Traditional dental fillings are often metal, but can also be supplied in composite resin or porcelain, both of which are tooth-colored.

While most people know what dental fillings are, few people are aware that there are several different types of filling in addition to the conventional style that we are most familiar. These two other varieties of filling are known as inlays and onlays.


What are inlays?

Dental inlays are designed to repair the chewing surface of the teeth at the back of the mouth and are most often recommended to fix large cavities where a conventional filling wouldn’t be strong enough to adequately restore the tooth.

Unlike traditional fillings, which are provided on the day of the treatment with no special preparation required, inlays are specifically designed for your affected tooth. You can choose from several different materials including porcelain, composite resin or even gold. The inlay will then be custom milled using your chosen material and an impression of your affected tooth.

A temporary restoration will be provided while the inlay is being prepared, which will protect your affected tooth from further damage in the meantime. Once the final, permanent restoration is ready, the temporary inlay will be removed and replaced.

What are onlays?

A dental onlay is very similar to an inlay – but bigger! Not only can an onlay repair decay that affects the cusps of the tooth, it is also large enough to repair the very central part of the chewing surface too. Just like inlays, onlay are custom-created specifically to fit your affected tooth. They also provide a suitable and more budget-friendly alternative to a dental crown.

Fitting an onlay also takes two visits – the first to take impressions of the tooth and fit you with a temporary restoration, and the second to fit your permanent, customized onlay.


What are the benefits of inlays and onlays?

There are a number of advantages of choosing inlays or onlays for your dental restorations. These include:

  • Greater preservation of the natural tooth. Unlike dental crowns, which require large portions of the tooth to be removed in preparation for them to be fitted, inlays and onlays require far less invasive treatment, meaning that more of the healthy, natural tooth can be preserved.
  • No discoloration. Conventional metal fillings have been shown to cause natural teeth to take on a light grey tinge. However, inlays and onlays are created from tooth-colored material which means they can’t cause any discoloration.
  • Natural appearance. Inlays and onlays are both custom-designed specifically for your teeth, helping them to look discrete and natural.
  • Strength. Both inlays and onlays are created from high-quality, durable materials which gives greater reinforcement to the tooth.
  • Less expensive. While dental crowns are an alternative solution to extensive tooth damage, inlays and onlays are just as successful and significantly more affordable.


If you would like to know more about dental inlays and onlays, the team at Dr. Donald Cadle Jr.'s office would be delighted to assist you. Call our office today to learn more at 727-312-1300.