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    Inlay and Onlay


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    Your dentist has probably advised you to use a dental filling or crown to cover your dental cavities or decay. But you may have yet to hear about or come across other options, such as dental inlays and onlays.

    Fillings are generally used to treat minor cavities, whereas crowns are an option when a significant fracture needs covering up. However, there might be cases where crowns are too large to cover up tooth decay, and fillings are too small to do the same. In that case, inlays and onlays are what most dental professionals will recommend if they need something to correct the problem. They are more sizable than dental fillings but not intrusive like dental crowns.

    At The Lakewood Dentist, we will thoroughly analyze your dental situation to determine whether onlays and inlays are ideal for you. If they are, we will use state-of-the-art equipment in our treatment to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome. And if they are not, we will recommend an alternative option that will satisfy your dental needs. Do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation if you need dental treatment in Lakewood, CA.

    What Are Inlays and Onlays?

    Onlays and inlays are prevalent, custom-made, indirect dental restorations utilized to correct a decayed or damaged tooth’s structure, restore its initial condition, and strengthen its functionality. Generally, these dental restorations are used to fill in the space of a tooth damaged due to decay, wear, or injury. They enable dental professionals to fix extensive tooth damage without opting for full-coverage dental crowns.

    The main difference between inlays and onlays is where the restorations are placed. Inlays are placed inside a hole or cavity on a tooth where the fissures and pits once were, while onlays replace the cusps or tips of a tooth. Another difference is that onlays are generally larger than inlays. Some of the biggest onlays resemble short crowns, covering all four tooth cusps but not the tooth’s sides. Consequently, onlays are also referred to as partial crowns.

    Onlays and inlays are way better than dental crowns, as they do not involve extracting the healthy tooth structure. Consequently, they are deemed to be less invasive dental work. They are additionally an ideal option for many patients.

    Dental crowns are not bad dental procedures. However, they involve extracting a more than necessary healthy tooth structure, increasing the risk of a tooth structure that might later need more intricate dental procedures, like the root canal procedure.

    Onlays and inlays can treat any tooth with a chewing or biting surface, for example, premolars and molars. They assist in keeping a damaged or decayed tooth intact for a longer period, enable a person to enjoy 100% use of the tooth when speaking and eating, and usually generate an appealing cosmetic result.

    Whether or not you need inlays or onlays is based on the severity and location of the damaged tooth. Inlays correct extensive internal damage, whereas onlays correct surface deterioration.

    Uses of Onlays and Inlays

    Dentists use onlays or inlays to correct tooth damage, decay, or erosion that is too advanced for standard fillings but not too advanced for dental crowns. Inlays are often used to treat larger cavities found in the space between the tooth cusps. Onlays could also correct decay, although they have other prevalent uses. They are usually used to repair teeth whose cusps are damaged by excessive acid or wear erosion. These restorations are essential in restoring a tooth’s shape and averting further damage.

    Onlay and Inlay Materials

    Ceramic, composite, and gold are the common materials for making inlays and onlays.


    Most manufacturers and dentists use gold to make onlays and inlays because of its durability, strength, malleability, and stain resistance. Also, because gold has properties similar to teeth, it protects tooth cusps weakened by trauma and cavities.

    Teeth with recurrent fractures are ideal for gold inlays because the material offers proper protection against breakage in the future. Aesthetics are the primary disadvantage of gold-made inlays and onlays. These restorations do not blend in with the natural tooth color, making them conspicuous. Consequently, these are ideal for rear teeth where appearance is nonessential, as they will not be easily seen in most cases. Another disadvantage of these restorations is that gold is more expensive than other materials, making gold-made inlays and onlays also expensive. 

    Previously, gold was the material of choice for onlays and inlays due to its strength. However, with the emergence of tooth-colored dental restorations, gold-made restorations are less desired.

    Ceramic and porcelain

    Ceramic and porcelain materials create tooth-colored onlays and inlays that mimic the original teeth’s function, shape, and color. These materials generate an outstanding aesthetic outcome. However, compared to other options, they necessitate a little more upkeep. Ceramic and porcelain materials are durable and strong, particularly when combined with metal, and the resulting restorations blend in perfectly with the natural tooth color. Also, with ceramic and porcelain materials, the inlays and onlays can be manufactured to mimic the tooth’s translucency, providing a more convincing cosmetic outcome.

    The disadvantages of ceramic or porcelain inlays and onlays are that they chip easily, are rigid, increase the risk of fracture (although they are less susceptible to fracture than filling), are vulnerable to staining, and are more fragile than gold onlays and inlays.

    Composite Material

    Composite resin-made onlays and inlays are the best for filling large cavities. They are an alternative to ceramic and gold restorations and achieve similar functions.

    Composite resin Inlays and onlays are tooth-colored, thus blending in perfectly with natural teeth. The restorations are also stronger, more durable, affordable, and less vulnerable to fracture than dental fillings. However, these restorations also have disadvantages, including being rigid, susceptible to staining, and weaker than porcelain or gold restorations.

    Onlays and Inlays vs. Dental Crowns

    While onlays and inlays cover part of the tooth, dental crowns cover the whole tooth, including all sides and the entire biting or chewing surface. Dental crowns give full tooth coverage; dentists can use them to alter a tooth’s shape if necessary.

    However, dental crowns mandate that dental professionals extract a substantial amount of tooth structure before placing them. On the other hand, treatment with onlays and inlays is more conservative. It provides advantages similar to dental crowns and, at the same time, enables the patient to preserve more of their tooth.

    Inlays and Onlays vs. Dental Fillings

    Theoretically, dental fillings and inlays or onlays are terms used interchangeably. However, inlays are meant for more significant cavities. Both fillings and inlays (or onlays) entail extracting an existing tooth cavity with a drill and then covering the space.

    However, the difference lies in the technique utilized to fill the space. With a dental filling, the dentist will use amalgam or composite material to cover the space, and it is a faster process that could be conducted in a single dental visit. With a dental inlay, the dentist will cover the space with one piece, generally made in a laboratory, although it could be made in a dental office. The inlay should be made precisely to fill the size and shape of the space; failure to do so will cause food and bacteria to enter the remaining space, resulting in further decay.

    One primary advantage of onlays and inlays is that they contract less than fillings, so chances are slim that the restorations will fail due to contraction. Another advantage is that inlays are more long-lasting than fillings, making them more reliable in the long term.

    Candidacy for Onlays and Inlays

    You are the ideal candidate for an onlay or inlay treatment if:

    You have Severe Tooth Decay

    Dental fillings do not always work best to correct dental cavities. If the tooth cavity has grown bigger and led to more tooth damage than a dental filling can correct, your dentist may suggest an onlay treatment.

    Onlays can repair large dental cavities, as the dental professional can mold the material to any shape and size. The onlay restoration is pre-fabricated in a dental lab to fit in the tooth’s grooves, covering the cusps. The dental professional will cement the onlay to the tooth, making it strong and preventing bacteria from further impacting it.

    In simple terms, candidates for onlays and inlays must have too much damage that a dental filling cannot correct, but not too much for a dental crown to be necessary.

    You Want to Preserve Your Whole Tooth

    It is difficult enough when you chip, crack, or break your tooth. Losing a section of your tooth can be painful and negatively impact your smile. Dental crowns can restore the full form and function of your tooth.

    Nevertheless, to install a dental crown, the dental professional must reshape your tooth first and shave a section of it. For an onlay, you need not lose any section of your tooth structure. Since the onlay does not cover the whole tooth but is cemented to a part of it, invasive dental work is unnecessary.

    You Wish to Make Aesthetic Changes

    Dental onlays and inlays have several uses, some of which might be cosmetic. If you dislike the color of your teeth, a dental onlay may be ideal for concealing discoloration. Your dental professional can use ceramic, composite, or porcelain onlays to match the color of your teeth. Dentists can also use onlays to repair small chips and cracks.

    To qualify for an onlay or inlay, you must have enough remaining tooth structure to hold the restoration. You want to save as much original tooth structure as possible for long-lasting oral and dental health. Thus, where applicable, inlays and onlays are more conservative than dental crowns. If you are considering these restorations, you must be devoted to practicing a proper dental hygiene routine.

    You are not an ideal candidate for onlays and inlays if you have large cavities. In this case, your dentist might recommend a crown. Dental crowns fit over the whole tooth, thus strengthening and safeguarding it from more damage.

    Preparing for Onlay or Inlay Treatment

    Some of the steps towards preparing for an onlay or inlay treatment include the following:

    X-rays are usually quick to conduct, particularly if your dentist has the tools to generate the images. Before the X-ray, disclose relevant information to your dentist to avoid negative reactions. For example, inform your dentist if you are sensitive to radiation, and they will provide you with protective gear to minimize your exposure.

    Inlays and Onlays Placement Procedure

    The onlay or inlay treatment procedure is completed in two dental visits, and the followingarethe steps involved: 

    Preparing the Tooth

    Usually, onlays and inlays treat damaged, fractured, or decayed teeth. During the first visit, the dentist removes the damaged, fractured, or decayed section of the tooth using a dental drill. And if you have an existing dental filling in the tooth, the dentist will also remove it. This step is similar to what the dentist would do in treatment with regular fillings. Once the dentist has removed the unwanted material, they will shape the hole left behind with specific parameters as a guide, enabling easier installation of the onlay or inlay.

    Creating a Tooth Impression

    The dentist will then cement the base to support the mold, take an impression of the affected tooth, and send it to the dental lab. They would also allow you to choose the onlay or inlay shade if you picked ceramic as your preferred restoration.

    Placing Temporary Onlay or Inlay

    Thirdly, the dentist will install a temporary onlay or inlay to cover the prepared hole while you wait for the lab to make the dental restorations. This prevents further cavity development and safeguards the tooth from thermal stimulation (sensitivity due to hot or cold liquids). The laboratory will create the restoration from the provided mold and then send it to the dentist. The dentist will allow you to return home in the meantime.

    Onlays or Inlay Placement

    Once the lab has made the onlay or inlay restoration, you will schedule one more dental visit to have the dentist place it. This is generally conducted a couple of weeks later.

    During this visit, your dental professional might or might not administer a local anesthetic to increase comfort and minimize the pain. They will then remove the temporary onlay or inlay restoration from the hole and cement the permanent restoration into the tooth. Dental professionals can often extract the temporary onlay or inlay and cement the permanent one without causing substantial discomfort.

    Dentists can now make composite and porcelain onlays and inlays in the office using milling machines such as CEREC and CAD or CAM technology. In that case, you would go through the first and second steps, skip the third step, and go to the fourth step, all in a single appointment.

    How Long Will Onlays and Inlays Last?

    Dental onlays and inlays often last several years with appropriate care. Onlays and inlays might not last long in individuals who develop dental cavities easily, grind their teeth, and have particular medical conditions.

    Aftercare and Recovery

    The recovery period for onlays and inlays takes only a few days. Expect some slight discomfort, particularly after treatment with an onlay. This sensation might last up to a couple of weeks based on how extensive and deep the inlay or onlay is.

    Note that even after treatment, your teeth are still vulnerable to oral bacteria and plaque buildup over a certain period. Practicing proper oral and dental hygiene is critical to maintaining the cleanliness and strength of the onlay and inlay restorations.

    To minimize the chances of oral disease, your dentist will provide you with aftercare instructions. Most dentists recommend:

    The Cost of Onlays and Inlays

    Inlays and onlay restorations are more expensive than basic restorations such as fillings. The cost of these restorations is usually based on the material utilized to make them. Inlay and onlay restorations made from materials of higher quality, such as gold, zirconia, or porcelain, cost more than those manufactured with materials such as composite resin.

    The cost can also depend on size; onlays may cost more than inlays because of their larger size. The dental office’s location, dentist’s experience, and reputation also affect the cost of these restorations.

    Because Onlays and Inlays treat dental cavities and dental conditions caused by trauma, insurance will pay for a percentage of the cost. Onlays and inlays are major dental treatment procedures, meaning insurance can cover up to fifty percent of the overall cost. In that case, you will just pay a little from your pocket. Without insurance, expect to pay between $650 and $1,200 per tooth for an inlay or onlay treatment.

    Advantages of Onlays and Inlays

    Onlays and inlays offer aesthetic and functional benefits to the patient. They can enhance the appearance of damaged teeth and restore their strength. Benefits of onlays and inlays include, without limitation:

    Find an Experienced General Dentist Near Me

    Inlays and onlays restore the function and appearance of your teeth so that you can have a confident smile. Whether you wish to treat decayed or damaged teeth, onlays and inlays may be ideal. When considering inlays and onlays, you want to work with an experienced dental professional and choose a product ideal for oral health needs.

    At The Lakewood Dentist, we boast professional dental professionals available 24/7 to answer all your questions and guide you toward achieving a great result from your inlay and onlay treatment. For high-quality dental procedures and to learn more about what option will suit your needs, we welcome you to schedule an appointment today by calling 562-423-1441.

    Get Your Confidence Back and Smile. Don’t Wait!



    Find a Dentists Near Me

    Your smile is one of your defining features, and you should trust your oral and general health to an upstanding dental practice. The experienced team at The Lakewood Dentist is happy to be your family’s primary resource for practical and gentle dental services. With the proper care, you can enjoy a healthy, beautiful, and lasting smile, and we are excited to assist you in reaching your goals! Whether your smile needs restorative care to repair damaged teeth, cosmetic care to enhance your smile’s appearance, or you are looking for a new dentist to care for your family, we have your ultimate solution.

    Our friendly dentists welcome patients throughout Lakewood to discover why many choose us to meet their oral health needs. Whether you want to establish ongoing care, are new to the area, or want to discover how state-of-the-art technology can assist you feel and look your best, our practice has the technology, personalized approach, and skills you deserve. We will ensure you are comfortable during your visit.

    Contact our friendly team today at 562-423-1441 to learn more about our broad range of services and to get started!