Inlays and Onlays: All You Need to Know

by maria | Last Updated: December 1, 2020

Transforming a smile sounds challenging, but you can achieve miraculous results through inlays and onlays procedures of restorative dentistry. In between dental fillings for minor cavities and crowns for deep dental decay, inlays and onlays is a highly effective procedure to repair specific tooth damage. In some situations, fillings could not be enough, and crowns could be too much. In such a situation, dental professionals might opt for something “just right” to fill gaps. Inlays and onlays, made of porcelain, gold, or resin, are very durable yet less intrusive as compared to other similar dental restoration procedures.   

Difference Between Inlays and Onlays 

Known as partial crowns, the basic difference between inlays and onlays is in the coverage of the filling area. In the inlays procedure, the composite material is filled in cavities and hollows in a tooth in the areas between the cusps. And in the onlay procedure, cavities are filled in larger areas, including cusps. Technically, inlays and onlays are similar to crowns, but unlike crowns, it doesn’t cover the whole surface of the tooth and is less invasive. In terms of material and function, both are similar to the crown, but the area covered is different.

What is Inlay and Onlay in Dentistry?

Your dentist will first examine the damage or injury of your tooth and accordingly take an imprint of the affected area. The imprint will be sent to a lab for manufacturing of inlays. A well-designed inlay will fit perfectly into the hollow of your tooth without affecting the cusps. The quality of imprint and color match depends on the proficiency of your dentist, so you should consult a dentist who has enough experience in dental restoration procedures. As compared to traditional filling, the composite resin or porcelain used in making inlays are far stronger, durable, and discreet. Inlays are slightly more expensive than fillings and deliver better results in terms of fortification of damaged teeth.

If cusps are damaged and the cavity is too big, your dentist might opt for onlays to protect the decaying area using stringer material. Your dentist will first prepare teeth by drilling the cavity and cleaning the surface. You might require numbing anesthesia to make the procedure painless. The next step involves fitting temporary onlay over the cavity and then taking an impression for manufacturing in certified labs. Once onlay is ready, it will be placed on the damaged surface to protect the dental surface. Unlike a crown, onlay doesn’t require the removal of cusps. It is called ‘partial crowns’ as it looks exactly similar to a crown but covers a portion only.

How Long Do Inlays and Onlays Last?

If you maintain healthy oral hygiene, your inlay and onlay fitting could last anywhere between 5 and 30 years. The composite material is highly durable, but the durability depends on cleaning, flossing, following the recommended precautions. You should consult your orthodontist regularly to check on the stability of inlays or onlays. If you have a grinding habit, then you could ask for night-guards to avoid speedy wear and tear. You should avoid hard food as too much pressure could cause a crack.    

How Much Do Inlays and Onlays Cost?

Inlays and onlays will cost you more than a traditional filling, but the cost could vary depending on the reputation of your dentist, the location of the clinic, and the material used in making the inlay and onlay. As compared to inlays, onlays could cost you’re a little more as the restoration procedure could be extensive. The cost of each inlay or onlay restoration could vary between £500 and £900. The composite resin costs the least, but it could get discolored quicker than other alternatives. Porcelain costs more, but it gives you more natural finishing and much-needed durability.

Final Words

In between inlays and onlays, it is all about the need for area coverage as inlays fill the limited area and onlays cover cusps as well. But, when it comes to selecting between onlays and crowns, it is all about procedural aggressiveness as the crown procedure needs significant reshaping of each tooth. Onlay is not similar to veneers, which cover only the front of the teeth cosmetically to hide discoloration. So, discuss all possible options with your dentist, as everything depends on the damage and suitability of the procedure.

Maria Giovanisci is an enterprising dentist from London. Maria graduated from the University of Murcia and began her professional career in her own dental clinic before, she decided to embark on a joint project with her two colleagues. Aside from contributing on this blog, she also works in the public health sector at the new Torrevieja Hospital.