Girl with Perfect Smile

Dental Fillings vs. Inlays & Onlays

Sometimes, tooth decay occurs, whether because we were lax in our oral healthcare regimen or because we just weren’t thorough enough. When the time comes to address a cavity, you have several options on how to treat it, depending on the extent of the damage. Talk to your dentist about which solution would work best for you.

Dental Fillings

Possibly the most well-known dental solution for cavities, dental fillings are the best choice for minor damage. They restore teeth by “filling” in spaces left by tooth decay. They can also be used to repair cracks and broken/worn down areas of the teeth.

The process for filling in a tooth requires the dentist to first remove the decay and then clean the tooth to prepare it for the filling, which can be made of amalgam (silver), composite resin, or porcelain. The procedure takes just one visit to complete.

Dental Inlays & Onlays

For more extensive damage, dental inlays or onlays may be needed. Like dental fillings, these can be made of composite resin or porcelain, but can also be made of gold.

The difference between the two are that inlays are used to cover the space in between the cusps while onlays are used to cover one or more cusps or even the entire biting surface of the tooth. Onlays are sometimes referred to as a “partial crown.” Both options are a good alternative to getting a crown if the damage isn’t too extensive, since capping a tooth requires altering it and possibly removing more than needed.

Unlike a dental filling, the procedure for dental inlays and onlays normally requires two visits. During the first visit, the damaged portion of the tooth is removed. An impression is then made of it and sent to a dental laboratory where a custom filling can be made. The tooth is temporarily protected by a sealant until the inlay/onlay is ready. During the second visit, the temporary sealant is removed and the inlay/onlay is fitted onto the tooth and permanently bonded to the tooth’s surface.