What do dentists do when they encounter teeth that need more than fillings but less than crowns? A dental onlay and inlay can provide the perfect fix in these situations. These two types of dental restorations sound nearly identical. Although they do have a fair amount in common, they aren’t interchangeable. What’s the difference between a dental inlay and a dental onlay?

Common Threads
Before considering their differences, it’s worth looking at what these two dental fixes share. Both a dental inlay and onlay are used to repair a moderately damaged tooth. Both are used to save the healthy portion of a tooth by providing needed strength and stability to protect your ability to chew. Both inlays and onlys can be crafted from composite, porcelain or metal.

Different Uses of Dental Onlays and Dental Inlays
So, what sets an inlay apart from an onlay? The differences go much deeper than a single letter of the alphabet. It’s a matter of tooth anatomy.

Topping It Off With a Dental Onlay
Why are dental onlays sometimes called partial crowns? A tooth onlay is a custom-made piece that caps the top of a damaged tooth, including one or more of its cusps. It basically serves the same purpose as a crown. However, a crown covers the whole tooth. It also requires the removal of at least part of the tooth. An onlay only covers part of the tooth and allows you to retain more of your tooth. Dental onlays also tend to be easier on your wallet than crowns.

Filling In With a Dental Inlay
There’s a reason dental inlays are also called indirect fillings. They’re used to repair the center area of the biting surface of a tooth. It’s ideal when a filling isn’t up to the task. A tooth inlay is a custom-made insert that tucks neatly inside the damaged tooth and restores it. When made from porcelain or composite that matches the tooth, the restoration can be virtually invisible.

Opting for an Inlay or Onlay
What should you expect if you opt for an inlay or onlay? This restorative procedure generally requires two dental visits. During the first visit, the damaged portion of the tooth is removed, and the area is cleaned. An impression is made and sent to the lab that will create your inlay or onlay. Then, a temporary fix is fitted to protect your tooth. When you return for your second appointment, the dentist will have your permanent inlay or onlay.  The steps include:

  • Remove the temporary piece and clean your tooth
  • Verify that everything fits perfectly
  • Bond the permanent inlay or onlay into place
  • Polish it so that it blends into your smile.

When they’re done, it should serve you for years.

Are you searching for a dentist in the Orlando, Florida, area who will support your efforts to safeguard your smile? Reach out to Wekiva Dental. We’re committed to delivering exceptional care to every patient we treat at every visit. Contact us today at 407-869-7333 to learn more about our general and cosmetic dentistry services or to schedule an appointment.