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The Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

Apr 01, 2023
The Benefits of Inlays and Onlays
Dental fillings and crowns aren’t the only way to restore the structure and appearance of a tooth affected by decay. Discover when an inlay or an onlay would be a better choice, and find out what unique benefits they offer.

You probably know about the two main treatments dentists use to restore the structure and appearance of a tooth affected by decay: dental fillings and crowns.

You may not know that cosmetic dentistry offers other nuanced tooth repair options — inlays and onlays — for structural deficiencies that are too big for a filling and too small for a crown. Simply put, inlays and onlays help ensure you get exactly what you need to restore your tooth; nothing more, nothing less.

As skilled family dentists specializing in dental restorations, Dr. Suzette Nikas and Dr. Chelsea Laucher offer inlays and onlays at Hazel Dell Dentistry in Carmel, Indiana. Find out when they’re recommended and what unique benefits they offer.

What are inlays and onlays?

When we remove a spot of decay from one of your teeth, we fill the resulting cavity to protect your remaining tooth and restore its shape, structure, and appearance. 

If the cavity is small, a dental filling made of amalgam or composite resin is often the perfect solution. When decay is deep enough to compromise the structure of your tooth, an artificial cap or crown is generally the best choice.

But when an area of decay and its ensuing cavity are somewhere in the middle — too large for a filling but not large enough to justify a full crown — an inlay or onlay can be the perfect, “just right” solution to repair the structure of your tooth and restore its full appearance and function. 

How inlays work

Made from enamel-colored porcelain or resin composite, an inlay fills mid-sized cavities within the inner area of a tooth or the part between its points (cusps). Created to fit the empty space perfectly, it’s cemented into place to form a tight bond with your tooth.

How onlays work

Like inlays, onlays are enamel-colored porcelain or resin composite restorations that fill mid-sized central cavities. The difference? Onlays also extend across the tooth's chewing surface to repair one or more damaged cusps. The top of the onlay is shaped to replicate your natural tooth surface and fit your bite flawlessly. 

Benefits of inlays and onlays

When it comes to repairing the mid-sized cavities left by moderate areas of decay, inlays, and onlays offer four significant benefits:

1. Restored integrity

Made from durable material and fitted meticulously, inlays and onlays restore the structure of your cavity-weakened tooth to reinforce its strength and durability. This improved integrity is further fortified by the bonding process, which forms a tight seal between the restoration and your tooth.

2. Outstanding durability

Inlays and onlays are resilient, hardwearing restorations with exceptionally durable chew surfaces. And unlike fillings, which can sometimes contract over time, inlays and onlays maintain their shape and size to prevent the possibility of developing a gap between your restoration and its surrounding tooth structure. 

3. Protective stability

By conserving a stronger tooth structure than fillings and crowns, inlays and onlays help extend the longevity of your natural tooth and protect against further damage and decay, reducing the likelihood that you’ll need further dental treatments for that tooth in the future. 

4. Natural appearance

While early inlays and onlays may have been made of gold, today's restorations match the color of your enamel for flawless, natural-looking results that leave people noticing your smile — not your dental work. 

Learn your restoration options

Getting an inlay or onlay requires two dental visits: One for taking an impression of the area and installing a temporary restoration and a second appointment for fitting the permanent restoration once it arrives from the fabricating dental lab.

After your inlay or onlay is complete, your tooth will be repaired with a durable, long-lasting restoration that protects your oral health and doesn’t detract from your smile. 

To learn more about the many benefits of inlays and onlays, call our expert team at Hazel Dell Dentistry in Carmel, Indiana, today, or click online to book an appointment any time.