Inlays vs. Onlays: What’s the Difference?

There are many different options for restorative dentistry when your teeth become damaged or decayed. One option is inlays and onlays – if you’re confused about the difference, you’re not alone. These are actually very effective ways to restore your smile and it’s helpful to know what your restorative dentist means if they recommend inlays and onlays. Here’s what to know about them and how you can restore your smile at Fennel, Yoxthimer, & Associates.

What Are Inlays?

An inlay is the process of using a composite or porcelain resin material to restore areas of your tooth that have been affected by cavities. These cavities are typically in the tooth’s center and not the outer edge of your tooth. These cavities are not severe and can be fixed. When performing a dental inlay, your dentist will numb the area using a local anesthetic. They will then drill out the affected area of the tooth and clean it out. They then fill the cleaned-out hole and supply it with the pre-molded filling.

What Is an Onlay?

An onlay is similar to an inlay – the only difference is that it replaces the tooth’s cusps or walls and not the middle. This procedure can use a crown to replace the affected surface of the tooth. Onlays can be seen as the intermediary point between filling the cavity and removing the tooth.

Your dentist will start by numbing the affected area using a local anesthetic. Once the tooth is numb, they will clean out the damaged part and take a mold to send to a lab. Then, a new temporary restoration is created to protect your tooth. Your temporary restoration will remain in place until your permanent restoration is ready.

Your second appointment will happen once your onlay has been fabricated. Your dentist will remove the temporary onlay and clean the tooth. After this, they place the restoration to ensure it fits well and then permanently bond it to your tooth. Finally, it’s then polished to make sure it matches your natural teeth.

The Difference Between Inlays and Outlays

The difference between onlays and inlays is that onlays are recommended when the tooth’s cusp is damaged and using an inlay can not fix it. Onlays are appropriate when the tooth structure is weak and may crack if the regular filling is used. In contrast, inlays are recommended when the tooth’s extensive damage is to the point that it may affect or weaken the remaining structure.

In short, onlays can prevent the tooth from needing to be removed. Inlays come in handy when the tooth is not damaged to the level of needing to pull the tooth out.

Schedule a Consultation

To learn more about your restorative dentistry options, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our experienced dental team. Schedule an appointment at our Cincinnati, OH office by calling or filling out our online form.

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