Dentists Answer FAQs About Onlays and Inlays

Dental Restorations Mountain View, CA

An onlay or an inlay are two options that a dentist might explore if the decay on a tooth is too severe to be treated with fillings. Also called partial crowns, these indirect restorations are made from impressions of damaged teeth. They are cemented into place and provide a more durable solution than fillings.

Frequently asked questions about how an inlay or onlay works

Here are the answers to questions that patients might have if the dentist recommends an onlay or inlay for a decayed tooth.

1. What are onlays and inlays?

In dentistry, an inlay or an onlay is a restoration that is set on a tooth that has been damaged by decay. Unlike fillings, inlays and onlays improve the structural integrity of the tooth being restored.

2. What separates onlays from inlays?

Inlays are designed to fit between the cusps of a patient’s teeth. These are the small points on a tooth’s biting surfaces. An inlay mainly addresses decay in the center of a tooth and only covers a small part of its biting surface. An onlay is usually recommended when decay also affects the cusps of a patient’s tooth. The onlay goes over the cusps, protecting them from further decay and damage.

3. When are these restorations needed?

Onlays and inlays are also known as partial crowns, and they are recommended when decay is too severe to be treated with a filling but is not quite bad enough to require a crown. Onlays and inlays provide cheaper alternatives to crowns to address the tooth’s specific issues. They are part of a more measured approach to treating tooth decay instead of simply covering the tooth with a crown.

4. What does the process look like?

Getting an inlay or onlay is like getting a crown placed on a tooth. It typically starts with the dentist removing decayed material from the tooth. A shot of a local anesthetic is administered to numb the tooth so the patient does not feel pain.

Placing an onlay or inlay requires the removal of some enamel to improve the way that the restoration fits, but it is not as much as the installation of a crown requires. After the patient’s tooth has been prepared, the dentist will give them a mold to bite down on. This creates an impression of the tooth that is sent to a lab. It takes about two weeks for the restoration to be made and returned to the clinic.

5. Do onlays and inlays require special care?

Inlays and onlays are durable restorations that do not require any more care than the teeth normally do. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily are all the maintenance that these restorations need. Patients should also avoid chewing on hard things, like ice, that can end up damaging the restoration.

Get the treatment that you need

Are you dealing with tooth decay? Give us a call or visit our Mountain View clinic to learn more about ways that our dentist addresses tooth decay.

Request an appointment here: or call Smiles Dental Care at (650) 563-1180 for an appointment in our Mountain View office.

Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: Dental Restorations in Mountain View, CA.

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