Inlays & Onlays

Woman smiling with perfect teethInlays and onlays are often used interchangeably, but the fact is, they are quite different from one another. However, both inlays and onlays are fantastic restoration options for patients who may have advanced dental concerns, but may not be candidates for more intensive treatment. We here at State Street Dental generally advise an inlay or an onlay for our patients who may have serious issues with decay or trauma to the tooth that cannot be treated with a traditional dental filling.

Inlays, Onlays, and Fillings

Dental inlays and onlays are considered a type of indirect filling, which means they are manufactured outside of your mouth (typically in our lab). This differs from traditional dental fillings, which are created and shaped directly at the affected site. While they may require multiple appointments to fit and finalize properly, they tend to be a very reliable restoration option for our patients. They are generally used in cases where the tooth decay has advanced to such a point that a traditional filling may no longer be adequate.

What is an Inlay?

A dental inlay is a type of indirect filling that covers just the cusps of your teeth. The cusps of your teeth are the pointy parts of them. There are many different materials that can be used in an inlay, but the most popular material choice is porcelain. That is because porcelain is strong and durable. However, gold can also be used, but it is more visible than porcelain. Because it is so visible, it may not be used as often on the front teeth. This is a matter of personal choice for the patient. Some patients may choose composite resin, but please be aware that it is not as strong or durable as porcelain. If the affected tooth is closer to the front of the mouth, then composite resin may be adequate.

What is an Onlay?

A dental onlay is very similar to a dental inlay in that they are both a type of indirect filling. However, while an inlay covers just the cusps of the teeth, an onlay is needed when the tooth decay has spread beyond the cusps and is now affecting the flat, chewing surface of the tooth.

Like inlays, the patient has several choices on the type of material that they use on their dental onlay. We do not recommend that a patient use composite resin on a dental onlay. That is because onlays are usually required on the back teeth (on the molars), and composite resin can be quite fragile and brittle. A good option for an onlay is gold, as it does not expand or contract in heat. On the back teeth, the gold can be concealed from view. Porcelain is also a fantastic choice, as it looks quite natural and is more durable than composite resin.

For our patients who may not be a good candidate for a root canal or a full crown, a dental inlay or onlay can help them protect their tooth and keep it in their mouth. To learn more about dental inlays and onlays, or to schedule an appointment with us here at State Street Dental, please give us a call today at (971) 332-3020!

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(971) 332-3020


1800 State St.
Salem, OR 97301-4343

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