The Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

Mar 02, 2024
The Benefits of Inlays and Onlays
Dental fillings and crowns aren’t the only way to restore the structure and appearance of a tooth affected by decay. Discover when an inlay or onlay would be a better choice, and discover their unique benefits.

You probably know about the two main treatments dentists use to restore the structure and appearance of a tooth affected by decay: dental fillings and crowns.

You may not know that cosmetic dentistry offers other nuanced tooth repair options — inlays and onlays — for structural deficiencies that are too big for a filling and too small for a crown. Simply put, inlays and onlays help ensure you get exactly what you need to restore your tooth: nothing more.  

At Affordable Dental East in Indianapolis, IN, Dr.Ben Mohrman and his team offer a full menu of restorative and cosmetic treatments, including inlays and onlays. 

Here, they explain the unique benefits of inlays and onlays.  

What are inlays and onlays?

When we remove a spot of decay from one of your teeth, we fill the resulting cavity to protect your remaining tooth and restore its shape, structure, and appearance. 

If the cavity is small, a dental filling made of amalgam or composite resin is often the perfect solution. When decay is deep enough to compromise the structure of your tooth, an artificial cap or crown is generally the best choice.    

But when an area of decay and its ensuing cavity are somewhere in the middle — too large for a filling but not large enough to justify a full crown — an inlay or onlay can be the perfect, “just right” solution to repair the structure of your tooth and restore its full appearance and function. 

How inlays work

Made from enamel-colored porcelain or resin composite, an inlay fills mid-sized cavities within the inner area of a tooth or the part between its points (cusps). Created to fit the space perfectly, it’s cemented into place to form a tight bond with your tooth.  

How onlays work

Like inlays, onlays are enamel-colored porcelain or resin composite restorations that fill mid-sized central cavities. The difference? Onlays also extend across the tooth's chewing surface to repair one or more damaged cusps. The top of the onlay is shaped to replicate your natural tooth surface and fit your bite flawlessly. 

Benefits of inlays and onlays

When it comes to repairing the mid-sized cavities left by moderate areas of decay, inlays and onlays offer four significant benefits:

1. Restored integrity

Made from durable material and fitted meticulously, inlays and onlays restore the structure of your cavity-weakened tooth to reinforce its strength and durability. This improved integrity is further fortified by the bonding process, which forms a tight seal between the restoration and your tooth.     

2. Outstanding durability

Inlays and onlays are resilient, hardwearing restorations with exceptionally durable chew surfaces. Unlike fillings, which can sometimes contract over time, inlays and onlays maintain their shape and size to prevent the possibility of developing a gap between your restoration and its surrounding tooth structure. 

3. Protective stability

By conserving a more robust tooth structure than fillings and crowns, inlays and onlays help extend the longevity of your natural tooth and protect against further damage and decay, reducing the likelihood that you’ll need further dental treatments for that tooth in the future. 

4. Natural appearance

While early inlays and onlays may have been made of gold, today's restorations match the color of your enamel for flawless, natural-looking results that leave people noticing your smile — not your dental work. 

Learn your restoration options

Getting an inlay or onlay requires two dental visits: One for taking an impression of the area and installing a temporary restoration and a second appointment for fitting the permanent restoration once it arrives from the fabricating dental lab.   

After your inlay or onlay is complete, your tooth will be repaired with a durable, long-lasting restoration that protects your oral health and doesn’t detract from your smile. 

For inlays and onlays and all your oral healthcare needs, call our office or book an appointment through our website today to get started with the care you need.