You have likely heard about getting fillings or crowns when you are dealing with dental decay or cavities. However, you may not have heard about some of the alternative options, such as dental inlays vs onlays.

Typically, fillings are used for smaller cavities, and a crown is used if the decay is deeper or if there is a fracture in the tooth. However, sometimes, a filling may not be enough, and a crown is too much.

In this situation, the use of dental inlays and onlays may be the best option. They are more substantial than a filing but not as intrusive as the crown. Keep reading to learn more about the difference between inlays and onlays.

The Dental Inlay

The Dental Inlay

A dental inlay is molded and fitted into the tooth’s chewing surface that has suffered damage due to an injury or decay. These are created with an imprint of the affected areas and then sent to a lab for manufacturing.

Inlays are designed to fit perfectly into the hollow of the impacted tooth; however, they will not impact the cusps. When your dentist takes the impression for the inlay, they will also work to match the color to ensure there is no visible difference.

By doing this, when the inlay is put in the mouth, it is almost indiscernible from the other teeth.

Inlays can be made from composite or porcelain material, making them stronger and more durable than traditional fillings. Dentists typically choose this option when fillings can’t strengthen the surrounding tooth and if the cavity requires something a bit stronger.

The Dental Onlay

The Dental Onlay

An onlay is used for damage or decay that has impacted your tooth’s cusp and the biting surface. Onlays are used when the cavity is too large to fill using amalgam fillings or if the tooth may crack because it is weak.

Onlays will improve the tooth’s strength and protect the area that has begun to decay. Unlike an inlay, the area may include the cusps and the space in between them.

Preparing the onlay is a process you can learn about here, but it involves a similar process to set a filling. The cavity is drilled out, and the area is cleaned.

A temporary onlay will then be put in the mouth, followed by the permanent one once it is created in a dental lab. When an only is used, the structure of the tooth is preserved. For many situations, this is preferable to the placement of a crown since this involves griding and reshaping the tooth in some cases.

Inlays vs. Onlays: What Option Is Right for You?

When looking at the differences in inlays vs. onlays, it is clear there are specific uses for each one. Your dentist can help you decide which option is best for your needs and situation.

If you need more help and information selecting the right dental restoration method, be sure to check out some of our other blogs.

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