Understanding The Differences Between Porcelain Inlays And Onlays

Porcelain inlays and onlays are popular tools for successful dental restoration, allowing patients to regain their beautiful smile in the aftermath of tooth decay or damage. Although they're not always permanent, they do offer a better-fitting and longer-lasting alternative to the traditional metal amalgam fillings commonly used to treat decay.

You may be wondering if there's a difference between inlay and onlay restorations. The following explains the differences and similarities between the two.

Porcelain Inlays

As mentioned before, porcelain inlays are commonly used as stand-ins for dental fillings. A typical inlay fits within the cusps, the pointed chewing surface of your tooth. This placement helps correct the damage left behind by cavities and other forms of tooth decay or damage by covering and filling in those flawed areas.

Unlike their traditional metal counterparts, porcelain inlays do not contract or expand in response to temperature changes. This makes the cosmetic procedure more stable and less prone to cause fractures in the remaining original tooth. You can opt to have your inlay created from gold or composite resin as well as porcelain.

Porcelain Onlays

While porcelain inlays deal with correcting tooth damage within the cusps, a porcelain onlay is designed to cover multiple cusps. This allows your dentist to restore your teeth's appearance over a wider area. Porcelain onlays are sometimes referred to as "partial crowns" since they offer the same functionality as a full crown minus the potential drawbacks. Like inlays, onlays can be also be crafted from gold or composite resin in addition to porcelain.

Same Procedures, Different Areas

To recap, porcelain inlays are fitted within the cusp of your tooth while onlays cover a more extensive area covering multiple cusps. Despite dealing with different areas of your tooth, porcelain inlays and onlays are normally fitted using the same basic approach:

  • Your dentist first makes an impression of your existing tooth and has it sent to a dental lab for custom fabrication.
  • Your dentist installs a temporary inlay or onlay for you to use while the permanent version is being custom-made to fit your tooth.
  • Once the permanent inlay or outlay is ready, your dentist will remove the placeholder and bond the permanent inlay or onlay to the tooth.

It's up to you and your dentist to decide whether an inlay or onlay is the ideal solution for your dental restoration. Regardless of your choice, you'll come away with a restored natural smile. For more information, talk to a professional like Dr. David K. Skeels.