5 Facts About Inlays and Onlays

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Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent dental problems. Because of this, your dentist has a variety of different options for preventing and treating tooth decay. Still, not all cavities can be prevented and sometimes you find yourself in the dental chair. Nonetheless, your dentist has the perfect treatment for decayed teeth. Most cases of tooth decay can easily be treated using dental fillings. 

There are two different types of filling that your dentist can place, depending on the size and location of your cavity. They are known as direct or indirect fillings. A direct filling is one that can be fabricated completely inside the mouth without the need for a dental laboratory. Composite fillings are considered to be direct fillings. 

An indirect filling, on the other hand, is one that first must be fabricated outside the mouth by a dental laboratory before being cemented into the mouth. Inlays and onlays are two types of indirect fillings your dentist may recommend. Since these types of fillings are not as common as composite fillings, you may not know much about them. Therefore, here are five facts to familiarize you with dental inlays and onlays:

Used for Larger Cavities

Since inlays and onlays are fabricated outside of the mouth by a dental laboratory before being cemented in place, they tend to be stronger than composite fillings. Since most inlays or onlays are also made from porcelain instead of composite resin, they also last significantly longer than a direct filling. This makes them an ideal choice for filling large cavities that may not be effectively and/or safely filled by a composite filling. 

Inlays and Onlays are Different

Although inlays and onlays are both indirect fillings, they are slightly different from one another. For example, an inlay is intended to be used on the texturized chewing surface of your teeth. An onlay is also fabricated to restore the chewing surface of a tooth, however it is also designed to encompass one or more of the tooth’s cusps, or points. Simply stated, an onlay is slightly larger and encompasses more of the affected tooth than an inlay. 

Preserve the Natural Tooth Structure

The first step to restoring a decayed tooth is to remove any decayed tissue. Then, the remaining tissue is shaped depending on the type of restoration being used. For teeth that are significantly affected by decay, dental crowns may be recommended. However, dental crowns require that the natural tooth structure is significantly reduced in size. Having an inlay or onlay placed provides a similar restoration method that preserves more of the natural tooth structure. It is always recommended to preserve as much of the natural tooth as possible. 


One main reason why preserving the natural tooth structure is so important is because it maintains the tooth’s natural strength. Inlays and onlays are considered to be highly durable because they only restore decayed portions of the tooth while preserving the rest of its structure. Additionally, the materials used to fabricate inlays and onlays are known for their strength and durability. The combination of these factors makes inlays and onlays more resistant to damage and keeps them lasting for years to come. 


Dental inlays and onlays can be fabricated by a variety of materials. While many inlays and onlays were fabricated from gold in the past, nowadays porcelain is primarily used. Porcelain offers similar strength and durability to gold, however it mimics the tooth’s natural color and texture. Not only that, but porcelain tends to be stain resistant. 

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