Onlays and Inlays in Carlsbad, CA

When dentists find cavities during routine exams, they usually remove the decay from the teeth and fill it. In some cases, dentists will make an onlay or inlay that bonds to the top of the tooth to protect it from additional decay or damage. Do you know the difference between inlays and onlays?

What is an Inlay?

An inlay is a dental filling that a dental laboratory makes to fit between the cusps of a tooth. After finding a cavity, one of our dentists at Smiles for Health in Carlsbad will clean out the decay, usually with a drill, and determine what type of filling to use.

If they choose an inlay, they will take a mold of the tooth and send it to the lab, which makes the inlay. Inlays may consist of porcelain, gold, or composite materials that help protect the cavity from further decay and helps restore a tooth to its full function.

You will come back for a second appointment to have the inlay bonded to your tooth. An adhesive “glues” the inlay inside the top of the tooth to cover it. An inlay is better than a filling if the cavity covers a large surface area, the tooth has a fracture or break in it, or if there isn’t enough of the tooth left for a crown.

What is an Onlay?

An onlay, like an inlay, bonds to the top of a tooth to cover a cavity. The difference between onlays and inlays is that an onlay covers the entire top of the tooth, whereas an inlay fits between the cusps of it. The cusps are the points of a tooth. Some teeth have two cusps, molars usually have four, and some have none.

Like the inlay, the onlay comes from the dental lab at our facility in Carlsbad. Our dentist takes an impression of the top of the diseased tooth and sends it to the lab. When it is ready, you will make another visit to the dentist, and he or she will cement the onlay to the tooth.

Onlays are durable, so they can last 10 to 15 years, protecting your tooth and covering the damaged area.