Frequently Asked Questions About Onlays and Inlays

Dental Restorations Boca Raton, FL

A visit to the dentist may alert you to the need for a tooth repair using onlays and inlays. If you do not usually have issues with tooth damage, these terms may be unfamiliar. When facing new dental territory, it may help to get more insight into the options before choosing a treatment plan.

Frequent questions about onlays and inlays

Tooth decay can lead to ruts or holes in teeth. These cavities need addressing before they result in further tooth loss. Once the affected area is cleaned out and the bacteria removed, the hole will need to be closed to prevent particles from entering. Dental providers have a variety of treatment options ready.

What are fillings?

When the cavity is small, a provider may recommend a simple filling. This remedy can occur in one appointment. It involves injecting the hole with a liquid material that hardens relatively fast. Dentists typically use a silver material called amalgam to fill cavities. However, these are unsightly, and patients may request the provider use a tooth-colored composite material instead.

What are inlays?

Inlays are used in place of a filling or if the cavity is a bit larger. Instead of a malleable material injected into the crevice, inlays are crafted to fit. Ceramic, porcelain or composite material are the top choices for this type of remedy. Inlays may result in a more effective reinforcement of the tooth because they are made so precisely. Once bonded to the tooth, inlays often result in a tighter seal than a traditional filling. Since the inlays are fabricated, the procedure may necessitate a repeat appointment.

What are onlays?

Dental onlays may be an option when the cavity is too large. Not only do they fill a hole, but they also cover a portion of the chewing surface. These are generally used in molars when cusps need repairing. Like inlays, onlays are created to fit the teeth they are restoring and are colored to match. They are also made from a composite, porcelain, or ceramic material. The bonding process ensures that onlays remain in place, which is good considering the heavy use molars get.

Do onlays and inlays replace crowns?

The type of treatment a dentist recommends depends entirely on the damage to the tooth. The size of the cavity will dictate if it will require a more extensive option than a filling, inlay or onlay. In the case of severe decay and tooth damage, a crown or cap may be required. A crown is made to fit the tooth it covers. It is more of a replacement than a repair as a crown covers the whole tooth, not just a portion.


The dentist will provide options on whether onlays and inlays will work for your particular situation. Knowing the severity of the tooth damage is one way to start considering which treatment options will suit the situation better. Dealing with repeat issues is a drag, so choosing the material and method that will last the longest may be something worth considering.


Request an appointment here: or call iSmile Dental - Dr. James Helmy at (561) 225-2054 for an appointment in our Boca Raton office.

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