5 Facts About Dental Inlays/Onlays

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Did you know that 91% of American adults aged 20-64 have had at least one dental cavity? In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the percentage of adults with cavities increases with age. This means that at some point in your life you will most likely develop a dental cavity, if you haven’t already. 

Most people know that cavities require dental fillings, and many people are familiar with what a dental filling is. However, not as many people are familiar with dental inlays or onlays. In fact, many people are unaware of what they are, how they work, or why they can be beneficial in certain cases. To clear up the mystery surrounding inlays and onlays, here are five facts about them: 

dental onlay
Dental Onlay

Inlays and Onlays are Different

Although inlays and onlays are both applied to the chewing surface of molars, they are  structurally different from one another. A dental inlay is fused to the center of the tooth over the chewing surface. A dental onlay is slightly larger and is fused over the center of the tooth and over one or more cusps, or points, of the tooth. 

Commonly Known as Indirect Fillings

Another name for inlays and onlays are indirect fillings. This name is based on the fact that inlays and onlays must be fabricated in a dental lab prior to being placed in the mouth. This is one main difference between a dental filling and inlays/onlays. However, the process to place an inlay or onlay is similar to the process of placing a dental filling. The patient will be anesthetized, the decayed tissue is removed, and the restoration will be placed. With an inlay or onlay, a dental impression will need to be taken and a temporary filling will be placed until the permanent restoration can be placed. 

Can Be Preferential to Composite Fillings

Inlays and onlays are ideal dental restorations for cavities that are too large for a composite filling, but too small to warrant the placement of an entire dental crown. They are also used in cases where the boundary between tooth and restoration must be very fine to prevent future decay. Unlike composite fillings, dental inlays and onlays do not shrink slightly when placed and ensure the boundary remains intact. 

dental inlay
Gold Inlay

Use Different Dental Materials

Traditionally, dental inlays and onlays were made from gold. In modern times, they can still be made from gold or other metals, as well as from ceramic and composite. Although gold was a popular choice in the past, more patients are opting for ceramic due to its strength and aesthetic appearance. 

Strong and Durable

Inlays and onlays are extremely strong and durable for a variety of reasons. For starters, they preserve much of the natural tooth structure, while providing support to previously decayed areas of the tooth. Their fabrication material, as well as the fabrication process, allows them to fit seamlessly with the natural tooth structure. When ceramic is used, inlays and onlays are also able to maintain their color better than a dental filling. 

Overall, dental inlays and onlays provide a specific type of dental restoration for decayed or damaged teeth that can be better than composite fillings, uses a variety of materials, and is extremely strong and durable. For these reasons, your dentist may likely recommend a dental inlay or onlay to restore your decayed tooth. To learn more, see “Inlays and Onlays”.

Dr. Sadati possesses extensive experience in all aspects of advanced restorative dentistry, with an emphasis in cosmetic and implant dentistry.  He has attained Accredited Fellow status in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most rigorous, demanding credentialing process in the world. He is the only AACD Accredited Fellow in South Florida.