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The Difference Between Inlays and Onlays

The Difference Between Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays are part of dental restoration treatments. Dental inlays or onlays are larger than dental fillings but smaller than dental crowns. The inlay or onlay is bonded or cemented into place. Unlike a filling, an inlay is placed within the cusps (bumpy surfaces) of your tooth. Onlays are larger than inlays. They cover one or more cusps.

The main goal of restorative dentistry is to make your smile look great again while improving your oral health and preventing future dental issues. At New Dimension Dentistry in Midtown East, Manhattan, Dr. Doris Giraldo provides restorative dentistry services to replace damaged or missing teeth. Inlays and onlays are two ways of restoring damaged or decayed teeth.

What is an inlay?

An inlay is a high-quality alternative to a tooth filling made of gold, composite resin (plastic), or ceramics. For example, for small or medium-sized tooth defects caused by tooth decay, Dr. Giraldo might suggest a simple filling or an inlay. 

An inlay is particularly suitable for your side tooth area. If you have a broken molar, an inlay is a great way to seal the tooth long term. It’s important to note that the tooth must be stable enough to withstand the chewing pressure later. Before inserting an inlay, Dr. Giraldo checks whether there is sufficient tooth structure.

Like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, an inlay fits perfectly into a tooth’s cavity. Inlays are attached to the defective area of the affected tooth with a special adhesive.

What is an onlay?

An onlay, also called a dome filling, covers large areas of the natural tooth crown. An onlay is often referred to as a partial crown and sometimes requires the removal of more healthy tooth structure than an inlay. An onlay may involve one to several cusps of the tooth's crown. 

While the inlay is suitable for small to medium-sized tooth defects, an onlay reconstructs a large part of the tooth’s surface. Because the onlay grips over the tooth's cusp, it strengthens weakened tooth walls. The inlay is completely surrounded by tooth substance and is only used on otherwise healthy teeth.

Inlay or onlay – which is suitable and when?

If a large part of the tooth substance is already missing, and a filling or an inlay no longer holds, Dr. Giraldo may recommend an onlay to replace most of the chewing surface. She might recommend an onlay if a tooth has broken off entirely or is too damaged to be fitted with a tooth inlay.

How are inlays and onlays made?

Inlays and onlays can be direct or indirect. Direct inlays and onlays are made right here in our office, and the procedure takes one visit. An outside lab makes indirect inlays and onlays and requires two visits to be placed.

Dr. Doris Giraldo will select the filling based on how much of the tooth remains. In addition, it depends on how noticeable the inlay or onlay will be to others. 

If you have damaged or missing teeth, inlays or onlays are a durable way to restore oral health. This treatment is much less invasive than other procedures, such as filling a cavity, and more cost-effective than a full cavity cleaning and filling, for example. If you’re considering a restorative dentistry procedure, call us to discuss your options or book your appointment today.

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