Dental Restoration Options: Onlays and Inlays

Dental Procedures Marietta, OH

Onlays and inlays can be key to keeping teeth healthy, and everyone knows how important that is — for dental health, for health in general, and for leading a pain-free life. These dental restorations can be useful for restoring the function and strength of damaged teeth.

What are onlays and inlays?

Both inlays and onlays are used to protect teeth that have damage from decay or injury. They go beyond just a filling, which is material the dentist uses to fill in a tooth after damaged tissue is removed. However, they are not as extensive a dental repair as a crown, which is placed over the entire tooth. Inlays and onlays are typically made of gold, resin, or porcelain.


Inlays are used when the damage to the tooth is too extensive for just a simple filling. An inlay is a single piece that fits in the tooth’s grooves. The main difference between an inlay and an onlay is that an inlay does not extend over the cusp of the tooth.


An onlay is also a single piece. It covers more of the tooth than an inlay but less than a crown. Onlays are typically used when there is too much damage to use an inlay, damage that covers the biting surface of the tooth.


The first step to getting an inlay or an onlay is that the dentist removes any decayed tooth material. Then the piece is shaped to fit the area in or on the tooth. Some dentists have the equipment to make these types of restorations right there in the office, and in that case it can be ready within a couple of hours or less. However, some dentists may need to send an impression of the tooth to a lab where the restoration is made; this usually takes about a week. The dentist can provide a temporary restoration to protect the tooth in the meantime. When the permanent restoration is ready, the dentist uses a special cement to hold it in place.

When are these dental restorations recommended?

There are many good reasons to get onlays and inlays. For one thing, these restorations are generally natural-looking. A porcelain restoration looks much like a normal tooth, and it can be hard for anyone to even tell which tooth has one. They are also durable and resistant to damage, so they can protect a tooth from further decay.

These types of restorations also have benefits over old-fashioned fillings, which can often expand and contract in the tooth, eventually coming out completely. Moreover, an inlay or onlay can last as long as 30 years if the teeth are well taken care of and the patient avoids foods that are hard or overly sticky.


Of course, even after the restoration is placed, you should take good care of your teeth. Onlays and inlays may provide protection, but the natural tooth beneath the piece can still decay. Brush and floss, and make sure to visit the dentist twice a year to ensure the restoration lasts.

Request an appointment here: or call McCarthy Dentistry at (740) 546-5178 for an appointment in our Marietta office.

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