What’s the Difference Between Dental Inlays and Onlays?

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give dental inlays and onlays a second thought. But if you’re in need of some dental work, it’s important to understand the difference between these two dental procedures.

The short answer is that inlays are used to fill teeth that have only a small amount of decay, while onlays are used to fill teeth that have more extensive decay. Let’s take a closer look at each procedure below.

What Are Inlays?

Inlays are used to repair teeth that have minor damage. They’re typically made of porcelain, composite material, or gold, and fit into the space created by the dental decay.

Once made, an inlay is then cemented into place, providing a tight seal against bacteria and preventing further damage to your tooth.

What Are Onlays?

Onlays are used to repair teeth that have experienced more extensive damage than an inlay can repair. The major difference between dental inlays and onlays is that an onlay typically covers a portion of the tooth that encircles the cusp (the curved area at the top of a tooth), while an inlay  typically fits between cusps. This means an onlay will usually cover a larger area than an inlay. 

They’re not completely different, though – inlays and onlays share some similarities. Like inlays, onlays can be made from porcelain, composite material, or gold. They are also cemented into place for a lasting repair.

Are Dental Inlays and Onlays the Same as Fillings?

They may sound similar, but no, dental inlays and onlays are not the same as traditional fillings. Let’s take a look at some of the top differences below.

They’re Stronger

Fillings are often made from a metal, such as amalgam or gold. These metals can be quite strong, but they’re not as strong as inlays and onlays, which are typically made of porcelain or composite material.

They Last Longer

Because inlays and onlays are stronger, more durable, and custom-made, they tend to last much longer than fillings. On average, inlays and onlays can last up to 10 years or more, while fillings may only last from 5-7 years.

Are There Any Risks Involved With Dental Inlays or Onlays?

There are risks associated with any type of dental procedure, but the risks associated with inlays and onlays are generally quite low. This is because the materials used are strong and durable, meaning they won’t easily break or chip. 

However, it’s still important to take good care of your teeth after the procedure, as improper oral hygiene can lead to an increased risk of decay or infection. This means you should brush and floss regularly, and visit your dentist to have regular check-ups.

The Bottom Line

Inlays and onlays are important types of dental procedures that can help protect your teeth from further damage while strengthening them at the same time. However, they are different. Inlays are typically used for minor damage, while onlays are more appropriate for teeth that require more extensive repair.

If you think you’d be a good candidate for inlays or onlays, then it’s best to talk to your dentist. They’d be able to tell you if they’re right for you. Good luck!

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Our patients will always be our first priority. We are devoted to creating an exceptional experience with every patient that walks into our office.

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