Dental Tips Blog


Inlays, Onlays, Overlays – What’s the Difference?

Posted in Fillings

What do inlays, overlays, and onlays have in common? They are all called “indirect fillings.”

They’re designed outside the mouth and then cemented into a prepared tooth like a piece in a puzzle. Virtually the only difference between all these fillings has to do with their size.


Inlays are the smallest, covering the least amount of tooth surface. They usually restore damage on the inner part of a chewing surface. Picture the valleys or grooves on the top of your molars. That’s where an inlay would fit into.


One step above inlays, onlays anchor onto one of the cusps or pointy parts of a tooth for more stability. If one of those sharp “mountains” on your teeth gets damaged, an onlay would do the job of repairing it.


Overlays are also referred to as partial crowns. They’re far more conservative than crowns, however. An overlay covers the entire top part of the tooth, but it doesn’t replace the entire outer layer of enamel as crowns do. These restorations offer the most strength and protection just short of a full crown.


Sometimes a dentist might decide to anchor an indirect filling with the support of a pin that’s fastened directly into the tooth.

Indirect fillings can be made of ceramic, porcelain, or gold and often require two visits to place. Some ceramic fillings can be made on-site in a single appointment if the office has that technology.

With the goal of being conservative yet strong, indirect fillings can help you retain more of your tooth for a long time. Ask your dentist for more information on the restorations available in your area.

Posted on behalf of:
Soft Touch Dentistry
1214 Paragon Dr
O’Fallon, IL 62269
(618) 622-5050


Inlays and Onlays – Super Fillings!

Posted in Fillings

It often happens that a tooth is too far damaged for a filling to fix it.

Decay or large fractures can cause your tooth to continue breaking apart, so that there isn’t enough structure left to repair it. A filling might be just a temporary patch-job. In this situation, a crown is needed to provide the most support and protection.

What if there was such a thing as a restoration between the two. That is, a combination dental crown and filling.

Guess what? There is!

Puzzle Pieces

Onlays and inlays can best be described as puzzle pieces. Like crowns, they are solid restorations that protect a lot of tooth surface. But onlays and inlays cover only part of a tooth.

Crowns fit over an entire tooth. Inlays are designed to snugly fit only within the grooves of the chewing surface. An onlay may overlap one or more of the biting edges. These restorations are perfectly crafted to fit together with your tooth like a piece into a puzzle.

How They’re Made

The damaged portion of your tooth is removed (with the help of anesthesia, of course!) and prepared. Instead of packing in a filling, a scan and/or impression is taken of the prepared tooth. The model is used to design a single solid restoration. This restoration is made outside of the mouth and then cemented into the tooth. A perfect custom-shaped puzzle piece!

Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

These restorations are not likely to fracture as oversized fillings could. They hold up to biting and chewing forces much more efficiently. They can even be made from materials that exactly match the color of your tooth.

Talk with your dentist to find out which restorative options are available in your area.

Posted on behalf of:
Seven Hills Dentistry
1305 Cedarcrest Rd. #115
Dallas, GA 30132
(678) 257-7177


The Filling-Crown Hybrid

Posted in Crowns

What are stronger than fillings but smaller than crowns?

Onlays and inlays!

Loosely classified as a combination between fillings and crowns, an onlay or inlay is often the ideal restorative choice. Just what are these restorations and how are they placed?

Puzzle Pieces

Onlays and inlays are restorations that are created outside of the mouth. After the fractured or decayed part of your tooth is removed, records of the prepared tooth are taken to design the restoration from. Then, it is cemented into the tooth just like a piece in a puzzle. Each restoration is created to custom-fit a specific tooth.

What do they look like?

The restoration can resemble the rest of your natural tooth, if it is made from a material such as ceramic. No one has to know it’s there! The piece will be designed to replace a portion of your tooth’s outer layer. Each restoration is designed to line up exactly with your tooth’s original shape. This means that it will reflect the same pattern of cusps and valleys on the tooth’s chewing surface.

What is the difference between onlays and inlays?

Inlays are placed where only a part of the “valley” of the chewing surface needs to be replaced.

Onlays are designed to cover the edge or cusps, or “mountains,” on the tooth in addition to the grooved spots.

Benefits of Onlays and Inlays

Inlays and onlays:

  • Are stronger than large fillings
  • Are more conservative than crowns
  • Give your tooth strength to bite and chew

Ask your dentist about restorative options available in your area. Your next dental restoration could be a beautiful new inlay or onlay!

Posted on behalf of:
Mitzi Morris, DMD, PC
1295 Hembree Rd B202
Roswell, GA 30076
(770) 475-6767


Inlays and Onlays: When and Why Dentists Use Them

Posted in Fillings

Have you had a piece of your tooth break off?  If so, how would your dentist restore your tooth?  You might think your dentist will use a crown or a filling – but there could be another option.

There are times when your tooth has too much damage to be restored with a filling but not enough damage to need a full crown. In those cases, dental inlays or onlays can be used to restore your tooth.

What are Inlays and Onlays?

Inlays and onlays are similar restorations.  The main difference is they restore different areas of your tooth that are larger than a filling would, but less than a crown.  The areas between the cusps or round edges are filled with an inlay.  Onlays cover one or more cusps on the biting surface of the tooth.  At times, onlays can cover the entire biting surface of the tooth.  In these cases, they are sometimes called a “partial crown” or “three-quarter crown.”  This is because an onlay can cover much of the tooth surface, making it similar to a crown.  Like crowns, onlays and inlays can be made out of gold or tooth colored porcelain.

The great thing about inlays and onlays is that your dentist doesn’t have to remove as much tooth structure to restore them.  If you had a crown placed, your dentist would need to adjust more tooth structure to cover the entire visible surfaces of your tooth.  This is not necessary when inlays or onlays are an option.

Do you have a broken tooth that needs to be restored?  Consider dental inlays or onlays!  Visit your dentist and ask if an inlay or an onlay is the right option.

Posted on behalf of:
Grateful Dental
2000 Powers Ferry Rd SE #1
Marietta, GA 30067
(678) 593-2979


Benefits of Dental Inlays and Onlays

Posted in Crowns

Have you ever heard of a dental inlay or onlay? Maybe even a “three-quarter crown?” If you haven’t – then we want you to know what dental inlays and onlays can to for you, and what makes them different than other types of treatment.

Inlays and Onlays Protect More than Just a Filling

Large cavities and fractures may be impossible to fix with a filling. If the filling takes up the bulk of the tooth, it won’t be able to withstand normal biting and chewing pressure. Something with more stability is needed, but what if a crown isn’t quite necessary? In this case, an inlay/onlay offers quality protection and minimal trauma on the tooth. 

They Omit the Need for a Crown in Some Cases

If a tooth has an adequate amount of structure that would need to be ground down for a crown, it may be better to consider an inlay/onlay. Inlays and onlays maximize the existing healthy enamel by eliminating the need to further prep the tooth. This helps the tooth have a longer lifespan and less-invasive treatment over time. 

Each One is Custom Designed

Just like a full coverage crown, inlays and onlays are made by hand in a dental lab. This provides you with the perfect fit that you expect. Custom designed restorations feel more comfortable, look more aesthetic and require fewer adjustments. They can be made of porcelain or gold, depending on the location of the tooth (and your preferences.) Both materials have different advantages in regard to the tooth being treated.

Posted on behalf of:
Springfield Lorton Dental Group
5419-C Backlick Rd
Springfield, VA 22151
(703) 256-8554


Porcelain Onlays and Inlays

Posted in Crowns

You may have heard the terms “onlays” and “inlays” mentioned among other restorative dental treatments. What are onlays and inlays? How can they keep your teeth healthy and strong?

Puzzle Pieces

Sometimes referred to as a combination of a crown and a filling, inlays and onlays fit into teeth like a custom-made puzzle piece. A fracture or decay in a tooth can end up being too extensive for the tooth to retain a simple filling. But if the damage is not too deep, then a crown may not be necessary.

An inlay or onlay would be the link that provides a middle-ground solution.

Inlays are called such because they would replace areas of the tooth that make up the “valley” or grooves of the tooth. Onlays serve the same purpose, but will also cover one or more of the “mountains,” or raised cusps of the tooth.

How They Are Made

Utilizing a photo of the prepared tooth and its neighbors, computer-assisted design technology is used to precisely measure the dimensions of your tooth. Then, a strong piece of porcelain is milled to fit the tooth’s dimensions exactly. This piece is cemented in, and the entire process can be completed in a single visit, in many offices.

The Benefits

Without removing as much tooth structure as a crown would, inays and onlays provide a virtually-seamless fit and more strength than a filling, alone. Porcelain inlays and onlays preserve the natural color and structure of a tooth.

Make an appointment to have a complete assessment of your dental needs. If some of your teeth need restoring, ask your dentist about porcelain inlay and onlay options.

Posted on behalf of:
Carolina Comfort Dental
5511 Raeford Rd #255
Fayetteville, NC 28304
(910) 485-0023


Adding Luster and Strength with Porcelain Inlays and Onlays

Making your teeth stronger when they’ve broken or decayed doesn’t always mean that you need a crown or a filling. There’s actually another way to repair your tooth while helping it look great at the same time. Porcelain inlays and onlays are comprehensive restorations that help strengthen teeth that are too damaged for a filling, but don’t need the full-coverage of a crown.

Inlays and onlays are used to cover or fill a significant portion of the tooth while maximizing healthy enamel around the damaged area. Like crowns, inlays and onlays are made in a laboratory. Each one is hand designed to fit in or over the tooth that is being treated. After the tooth is prepped and an impression is taken, it usually takes about two weeks before the permanent inlay/onlay is ready for placement. A temporary filling protects the tooth from sensitivity before the inlay/onlay is bonded to the tooth.

The material used for inlays and onlays is high-grade porcelain. Porcelain restores strength to the tooth so that it can continue functioning normally. It also preserves aesthetics. Because porcelain is available in so many different shades, it can be carefully matched to the color of your natural tooth enamel. The matching process is identical to that used in porcelain crown treatments.

Most people are not as familiar with dental inlays and onlays as they are with other types of treatment. Thankfully the goal of minimally invasive dentistry has allowed these reliable treatments to gain more popularity among dentists and their patients. The next time your dentist tells you that a filling just won’t do, ask if an inlay or onlay is the best option.

Posted on behalf of:
Rowe Family Dental Care
2320 Satellite Blvd NW #120
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 622-5909


Indirect Restoration Alternatives

Restorative dentistry includes direct restorations such as filling and indirect restorations which refers to dental treatments for decayed, damaged, or missing teeth that require more than a filling.  Indirect restorations include crowns, caps, inlays and onlays and made in a dental laboratory.  Modern dentistry has developed a variety of materials for indirect restorations that provide patients and dentists with alternative to traditional dental materials.

Each type of material has its strengths and weaknesses and the choosing the right material involves consultation between the dentist and patient.  Various factors affect the choice of material including the cost, patient’s oral health, the load the tooth will bear, and aesthetics.

Porcelain (or ceramic) are popular materials for indirect restorations because their color and translucence is similar to that of natural teeth.  Porcelain has a high resistance to wear, but tends to wear the teeth opposite of the restored tooth.  In addition, porcelain is more prone to fracturing under pressure than other dental materials.

Porcelain fused to metal provides a stronger restoration that is less prone to fracture and has the aesthetic qualities of porcelain, but they can be sensitive to hot and cold.  Like all-porcelain, they can cause the opposing teeth to wear.

Composites don’t wear opposing teeth like porcelain.  They are also tooth colored, but lack the translucence of porcelain.  They are also not as strong as porcelain or metal restorations and tend to wear and discolor.

Metal alloys such as gold alloys and base metal (silver colored) alloys are strong, durable restorations that resist fracturing and wear while not causing excessive wear on opposing teeth.  Their primary drawback is that their color does not look like natural teeth.  Also, some patient experience sensitivity to hot and cold.


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