How an Inlay Differs from an Onlay or Filling
With what you know now about a dental inlay, it probably sounds pretty appealing! If you have minor tooth decay, a fracture, or other dental damage, getting this type of restorative care may be ideal. But sometimes, other forms of dental restoration are necessary.
For example, a dental onlay is for repairing a tooth with more extensive damage that spreads to the cusp or biting surface. While an inlay is usually for a cavity in your tooth's grooves, an onlay covers the higher points around the edges of your tooth. Getting a dental onlay requires a similar procedure as an inlay. Your oral care professional will numb the affected area with a local anesthetic. They will then drill your tooth to clean out the cavity or damaged area, remove any decayed or damaged tooth material and insert a temporary dental onlay. Like with an inlay, your dental professional will then take an impression and send it to a lab. A week or so later, your permanent onlay will arrive, and your dental professional will fit it into your tooth.
And what about a filling? You've most likely heard of this dental procedure and perhaps already have one! Fillings, used to fill in a small area of your tooth where a dental professional cleaned out a cavity, can be made from several substances. They range from the more typical amalgam – a mixture of metals, to a composite of glass and acrylic resin. But traditional fillings can have a downside. As noted in a literature review published in the Journal of Dental Health, Oral Disorders & Therapy, metal fillings can weaken tooth strength by up to 50%. In comparison, inlays and onlays made of porcelain and composite materials can increase tooth strength up to 75% and last between ten and thirty years!
The positive aspects of fillings are that they need only one dental appointment, are less expensive, and are appropriate for small cavities. In contrast, inlays and outlays are for larger damaged areas. Think of inlays and outlays as a middle ground between fillings and crowns.