Inlays and onlays are an alternative to a crown used on teeth that have sustained damage that requires more than a filling. They’re sometimes referred to as an indirect filling because the inlays and onlays are fabricated in a lab and then fitted into the tooth later.

When are Inlays and Onlays Used?

Inlays and onlays are used when the tooth is too damaged or decayed for a traditional filling to work. The difference between an inlay and an onlay has to do with the placement on the tooth. For example, inlays are placed inside the cusps of the tooth only, while outlays extend beyond the inside of the tooth and cover the cusps.

They’re considered a more conservative option than a crown, which is offers full coverage of the tooth. They boast a superior fit and allow the dentist to preserve as much of the tooth as possible.

In some cases, they’re also superior to composite fillings because they won’t discolor over time. They’re also used in cases where the cavity is between the teeth and a composite filling won’t be able to seal the tooth as well.

Essentially, you could say that an inlay or an onlay is one step up from a tooth colored filling.

How Inlays and Onlays are Different from a Crown

A dentist’s goal is to maintain as much of your natural tooth structure whenever possible. In plain English, that means removing only decay while maintaining the integrity of the rest of the tooth. Inlays and onlays are more conservative approaches than crowns because they allow the dentist to preserve more of the natural tooth.

So what is the difference? In reality, onlays and crowns are very similar. The biggest difference has to do with how much of the tooth each technique covers. An outlay will cover one or more of the cusps (points) of the tooth. On the other hand, crowns cover and encapsulate the entire tooth.

While both crowns and onlays restore broken cusps, crowns require the dentist to remove more of the underlying tooth structure in order to fit the crown over the tooth. Over time, all dental restorations degrade, and when that happens, even more of the tooth needs to be removed to repair the original restoration. This reason is why dentists prefer onlays to crowns.

Find Out if You Are a Good Candidate

To see if you’re a good candidate for this type of procedure, you can request a consultation from Dr. Drew in our office. He will evaluate your situation and provide you with a complete expert recommendation including all of your options for restoring your teeth. Contact us today at (208)529-0420, or click the button below to request an appointment!