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Understanding the Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

Understanding the Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

Tooth restorations repair teeth that suffer from damage or decay. The most extensive restoration is a crown, a cap made of porcelain, ceramic, or metal that covers the entire visible portion of a tooth to reinforce, protect, and enhance its appearance. 

You can think of inlays and onlays as partial crowns. They play specialty roles in reinforcing vulnerable points, rather than covering the entire tooth. Inlays and onlays each have specific applications in dental restoration. 

The caregivers at RR Dentistry in Georgetown, Texas, specialize in all manner of tooth restorations, from fillings to dental implants. While not as well known as some other dental procedures, inlays and onlays have some powerful applications and surprising benefits that add up to the right choice in many situations. 

The difference between inlays and onlays

Inlays and onlays protect parts of the visible portion of a tooth. Each of these techniques is a step above the conventional filling in terms of surface area, so they reinforce and restore a tooth with greater damage from decay or injury than a filling can. 

The difference between inlays and onlays reflects in each of their names. 


Inlays protect spaces “in” a tooth. For example, a molar has a surface with peaks and valleys. These valleys are prime places for decay to begin. 

When there’s not extensive damage to a whole tooth, but repair is still necessary, inlays are a more comprehensive way to treat the tooth with a material that closely resembles natural tooth enamel. 


If inlays treat the valleys, onlays protect the peaks. Called cusps, these tooth surfaces sometimes face the most extreme force of any tooth surface. Conventional fillings may not be durable enough to withstand these forces. 

Onlays are usually more extensive than inlays. While once they were made from metal, onlays now use porcelain or composite resins to match the natural tooth to which they’re attached. Larger onlays can cover the entire biting surface of a tooth, differing from a crown in that they leave the sides of a tooth uncovered. 

Both inlays and onlays are custom manufactured to fit your teeth perfectly. 

The benefits of inlays and onlays

There are some substantive benefits for you when choosing inlays and onlays. Let’s look at several of these. 

Natural appearance

Amalgam fillings are perfectly functional, but their metallic appearance gives away their presence. Inlays and onlays use materials that mimic the appearance of natural teeth while providing sufficient strength for a long-lasting restoration. 

Adding strength to teeth

Porcelain is a material with a long history of use in dentistry. As well as its resemblance to tooth enamel, it’s strong. Porcelain can improve the strength of a tooth by 75% in some applications. Porcelain inlays and onlays have the potential to last a lifetime. 

Improved hygiene

The nooks and crannies of natural teeth are often places where food debris and plaque get caught and cavities form. Inlays in particular fill these spaces, making it easier to effectively clean your teeth with normal brushing. 

Preserved tooth structure

Full crowns often require extensive reshaping of the natural tooth that they cover. Inlays and onlays preserve more of your natural tooth’s enamel, removing only decaying or damaged tooth surfaces. 

Find out more about the benefits that inlays and onlays can offer you by consulting with the oral care experts at RR Dentistry. Call or click to schedule your appointment today.

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