When Do Inlays and Onlays Make Sense?

Inlays and Onlays Treatment San Diego Dentist

Not every damaged tooth requires a crown. Many repairs are made using porcelain or composite materials known as inlays or onlays. Some patients choose gold inlays or onlays. The dentists at La Jolla Family Smile Design discuss when inlays and onlays make sense for patients.

What are Inlays and Onlays?

The difference between inlays and onlays is the area of the tooth on which they are placed. Inlays and onlays are used in molars and premolars. 

Inlays are used to fill in cavities and the fissures between cusps. Onlays can cover and replace the tooth cusp. They differ from veneers, which are primarily cosmetic. Onlays protect the teeth.

Filling in cavities is among the most basic dental procedures. When a cavity is too deep for a filling, an inlay, custom-fitted and then cemented onto the tooth, is an alternative.  Unlike a filling, an inlay can actually make the tooth stronger. A tooth with an inlay increases chewing force significantly.

Because inlays are custom-made, they are better than fillings for occlusion and contact point achievement.

Keep in mind that, unlike a standard filling, an inlay requires two visits. At the first visit, the dentist makes the impression for the inlay. After the inlay is created, the second visit is scheduled. This is when the inlay is put in place.

Although inlays and onlays are available in several materials, porcelain best matches the tooth color.

Reasons for Inlays and Onlays

The dentist discusses the various methods suited to a patient’s tooth repair. Inlays and onlays are often recommended for:

  • Chipped teeth
  • Cracked teeth
  • Substantial tooth decay
  • Teeth with extension restoration

When the dentist determines that a crown is not necessary for tooth restoration, that’s where the option of inlays or onlays comes in. A crown is essentially a replacement tooth, installed when the damage is extensive. Repairs made using an onlay do not remove as much of the tooth structure.

Although inlays and onlays are available in several materials, porcelain can best match tooth color.

A Less Expensive Option

Inlays and onlays are less expensive than full crowns. They are also durable. Your inlay or onlay may last 25 years or more. Much will depend on how well oral hygiene and tooth care are maintained.

Inlays are costlier than fillings but offer more protection.

Dental insurance may not cover inlays and onlays in all situations.

Contact Us

If you would like more information about inlays and onlays and if they make sense for your dental repairs, contact the dentists at La Jolla Family Smile Design.  To schedule a consultation to start this discussion, please call (858) 454-3044.