What Is the Difference Between Dental Inlay and Onlay?

What Is the Difference Between Dental Inlay and Onlay?

Mar 01, 2022

If you’ve experienced dental damage such as cavities and decay, your dentist may have recommended dental fillings, crowns, or inlays and onlays. The right treatment for you will depend on your tooth damage.

While dental fillings repair minor cavities, a crown is used when tooth decay or damage is significant. For moderate damage, a filling might not be sufficient. Still, the damage may be too minor for a crown. A dental inlay or onlay may be ideal.

What are Inlays and Onlays?

Dental inlays and onlays offer indirect tooth restoration for minor to moderate teeth damage. They save the healthy portion of the tooth by enhancing its strength, stability, and appearance.

What is an Inlay?

Dental inlays fill tooth parts that are too big for a standard filling. They cover the areas between the teeth, cusps, or bumps that have been damaged by decay or injury. An inlay fits the removed site of the teeth. It prevents food, plaque, and bacteria from penetrating the filling and causing more decay.

What is an Onlay?

A dental onlay is a partial crown. Onlays cover damage to the tooth’s cusps and biting surface. Usually, an onlay can repair a large area of a tooth. An onlay is firmly bonded to the tooth to ensure it withstands the high pressure of chewing and grinding food.

The Key Difference between Inlays and Onlays

The major difference between dental inlays and onlays is that an onlay covers a larger tooth area than an inlay. Secondly, an inlay only covers the space between teeth cusps, while an onlay covers the tooth cusps.

Dental Inlays and Onlays Procedure

Generally, getting an inlay or onlay is easy, quick, and virtually painless. A typical procedure involves:

  • Preparing the tooth

The initial stage to getting an inlay or onlay is to remove any infected parts of the teeth. The dentist also removes any existing filling in the tooth. Next, the dentist cleans and shapes the tooth to allow easier placement of the inlay or onlay.

  • Impressions of the tooth

After preparing the tooth, the dentist takes a mold or impression of the damaged tooth. The dentist uses the mold to determine which material is most suited for your inlay or onlay. During this visit, the dentist will also help you choose the shade of your restoration for ceramic restorations.

  • Temporary filling placement

The dentist will install a temporary filling to seal the cavity. It reduces the risk of re-infection and further decay and protects the tooth from sensitivity due to cold and hot temperatures.

  • Inlay or Onlay placement

Once the customized inlay and onlay are ready, the dentist will call you for the fitting procedure. The dentist will pull off the temporary filling and cement the customized inlay or onlay into the tooth.

How Long Do Inlays and Onlays Last?

Dental inlays and onlays are made of porcelain or ceramic materials. It makes them highly durable and long-lasting. An inlay or onlay can last for about 10-30 years with proper installation and care. To care for your inlay or onlay:

  • Brush and floss daily
  • Avoid hard, crunchy, and sticky items. They can crack the restoration and lead to further decay.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups
  • Eat healthier and hydrate well
  • Avoid abrasive dental products to prevent tears and wear to the restoration.
  • Avoid sugary and acidic items. These items increase the risk of further decay.
  • Wear a nightguard for bruxism. Teeth grinding can cause the inlay or onlay to crack and cause teeth damage.

Which Treatment is Right for You?

Both inlays and onlays are highly effective. However, each restoration is best suited for specific conditions. The best way to know which is the right treatment for you is to speak with your dentist for an exam. For more information about dental inlays and onlays treatment, contact Marshfield Dental Group.

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