What is the Difference Between Inlays and Onlays?

What is the Difference Between Inlays and Onlays?

Jan 01, 2023

Inlays and onlays are teeth restoration procedures that dentists use to fix teeth that are damaged. People with decayed, fractured, and cracked teeth or teeth with minor damages are best suited for such restoration. Dental practitioners sometimes substitute a cavity filling with an onlay or inlay.

If you consider getting inlays or onlays, visit Dental Arts in St. Pete Beach. During your first visit, Dr. Sausha Toghranegar, a dentist in 33707, will first conduct an oral examination to determine whether you are fit for the onlay or inlay procedure.

When fitted properly and on time, inlays and onlays can save your teeth and prevent the need for a dental extraction or additional corrective procedures. Here is a more in-depth view of these teeth restorations that dentists in St. Pete Beach use to protect your teeth and restore your smile.

What Are Dental Inlays?

Dental inlays are pre-molded fillings placed into dental grooves to restore teeth damaged by cavities. They are preferred when the cavity is located at the center of the tooth rather than along the cusps or outer edges. The cavity progression should also be manageable.

The inlay placement procedure onto a tooth is straightforward and relatively painless. Your dentist will first use local anesthesia to numb the area surrounding the damaged part before drilling into your affected tooth to rid all the decay. Once this is done, the dentist will use the top crevice part of your tooth to get an impression that is sent to a dental lab. Composite resin or porcelain material is then used to make up a dental inlay that matches your natural tooth color. Inlays have a longer lifespan than traditional fillings and offer an almost invisible restoration.

When is An Inlay Preferred

Teeth can get damaged sometimes despite you having a rigorous dental care routine and consistently attending regular dental checkups. You can get an inlay to fix such issues if your chewing teeth surface is-

  • Decayed, broken, or fractured, but the tooth cusp is not affected
  • Extensively damaged such that it requires a large filling which could possibly weaken your remaining tooth structure
  • Injured, but the damage level doesn’t allow removal of sufficient tooth material for mounting a crown

Dental Onlays

Onlays are quite similar to inlays in various ways, and the major difference is that they are made differently and are much bigger in size. Dental onlays are designed to enclose the whole tooth, whereas inlays, on the other hand, cover only a small portion of a tooth.

A dentist near you may recommend onlays if you have suffered damage or decay on your tooth cusps or biting areas. Onlays will also be preferred when the damage is extensive to the point that a standard tooth filling is not sufficient to restore the damaged teeth. Dental onlays restore a tooth’s strength and protect the tooth from damage caused by decay.

When getting onlays, your dentist will prepare your tooth just like they would when getting a filling. First, a local numbing anesthetic is given, and the cavity area is drilled out and cleaned. Next, an impression of your tooth is sent to a lab, where they will use it to make you a permanent onlay. In the meantime, your dentist will fix you with a temporary dental onlay.

Dental onlays will preserve your tooth structure in contrast to crowns that may sometimes need some filing down and cusps removal from your tooth.

Pros and Cons of Inlays and Onlays

The pros of both dental inlays and onlays are far more than the cons. Here are the pros:

  • Superior support – Inlays and dental onlays use porcelain material that is durable and stable to reinforce a tooth’s strength for years.
  • High-quality aesthetics – Porcelain matches natural teeth and thus is a realistic replacement option for natural dental tissue.
  • Preserved tissue – Not getting an onlay or inlay may force you to get a tooth crown later, and a crown requires enamel removal to create the best fit. Using an inlay or onlay, therefore, preserves one’s natural healthy dental tissue.


  • Multiple visits – If you get either of these restorations, you will have to return to our dental office in St. Pete Beach for at least one appointment after your initial visit.

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