Dental Inlays & Onlays – Differences, Procedure, & More…

More conservative than a crown, inlays and onlays are two methods of restoring normal tooth structure after decay or other damage. Inlays and onlays are known as indirect fillings because unlike a standard filling that is done in our office, both are made in a laboratory and cemented or bonded to the surface of the tooth during a second visit. And unlike standard fillings, inlays and onlays do not weaken the tooth structure, but actually strengthens it. After the procedure, the tooth can bear up to 50 to 75 percent more chewing force.

An inlay is done when the tooth structure replaced is within the cusp tips of the tooth. If the damage is more extensive and the new structure covers the entire chewing surface including one or more tooth cusps, the procedure is called an onlay.

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Dental Inlays

Technological advancements make it possible for you to maintain an amazing smile even if you have cavities. Many dentists still use metal amalgam fillings but today there are dental inlays available to fill your cavities with material that matches your tooth color. If you are self-conscious about your existing metal fillings, you may want to consider replacing them with natural looking dental inlays. Dental inlays allow our Rock Hill dentists to offer you virtually invisible dental restoration.

What Dental Inlays Do

Dental inlays repair the chewing surface of your tooth. Our Rock Hill dentists may use dental inlays to repair teeth that have other restoration options such as a dental filling. You can have your inlays created of tooth colored porcelain or composite resin. You can also choose to have your inlays made from gold. Most inlays are more durable than the composite or amalgam fillings. They are also less expensive than a dental crown.

Creating Your Dental Inlay

A laboratory creates your dental inlay using the exact specifications of the tooth that needs restoration. One of our Rock Hill dentists will remove the decayed portion of the tooth or teeth receiving the dental inlays. Our dentists create an impression of your tooth/teeth and send it to the laboratory. The porcelain the lab uses to create your dental inlays will match the shade of your teeth. This allows your dental restoration to blend perfectly.

Our Rock Hill dentists will give you a temporary restoration while your permanent inlays are created. The temporary restoration protects your teeth and allows you to chew safely and comfortably. Once your inlays arrive at our Rock Hill facility, our dentists will ensure that they fit perfectly and then secure them in place.

Dental Inlays in Just One-Visit

Our dentists at the Rock Hill facility can now create your dental inlays in just one visit. The new CEREC technology allows them to mill your porcelain dental inlays on site. With this system, our dentists will fit you with your custom-made porcelain inlays and then cement them in place in a single visit. This technology eliminates your two-week wait time and the need for any temporary restorations.

Porcelain Inlays versus Metal Fillings

  • When you receive a porcelain inlay instead of a metal filling, our dentists can preserve more of your natural tooth.
  • Porcelain inlays look natural.
  • Your teeth become stronger with porcelain inlays as opposed to weakening when metal fillings are used.
  • Your porcelain inlays will not contract and expand with hot or cold foods, which means they will not crack your teeth.
  • Porcelain inlays are more durable than the metal fillings are.
  • An inlay resists the forces created when you bite down.
  • Inlays offer perfect contours for healthy gums.

Caring for your Inlays

You need to care for your dental inlays the same way you care for your natural teeth. Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing every day. Regular dental visits to our Rock Hill facility allow us to detect any dental problems while they are still in the early stages.

Dental Onlays

The dentists at Espinal & Willis – Carolinas Center for Advanced Dentistry in Rock Hill, SC. offer their patients a variety of dental restoration techniques. One of these techniques is dental onlays.

A Dental Onlay can Replace a Traditional Dental Filling

Many consider dental onlays indirect fillings. These onlays offer patients a stronger, well-fitting and longer lasting repair for tooth decay or other structural damage.

While a dental filling is molded during your dental visit, an onlay is created in a dental laboratory before it is fitted and then bonded to a damaged tooth. A dental restoration that requires material to be bonded within the tooth’s center is considered an inlay whereas, restorations involving the entire biting surface or one or more points (cusps) of a tooth are onlays.

The Dental Onlay Procedure

Your onlays may be made from various materials including: porcelain, gold and resin. The difference between these three materials is their appearance. It generally takes two visits to complete an onlay.

At your first visit, your teeth will be prepared for your dental onlays. Molded impressions of the teeth being restored are taken and sent to the laboratory where your onlays will be created. Our dentists may create you a temporary dental onlay during this visit to protect your teeth until your permanent onlays are created and placed.

At your second visit, our dentists remove the temporary onlays and place your permanent dental onlays. Our dentists will check your bite and make sure that your dental onlays are smooth and tight. Then our dentists will bond the dental onlays onto your teeth and polish the margins.


The best material to use for your dental onlays depends on where the onlays are located. For example, if you are placing an onlay on your back molar you can use gold. Resin materials are perfect for people who have a misaligned bite or grind their teeth and our dentists use porcelain onlays in the smile line areas.

Other Benefits of Onlays

Easy Cleaning: Dental onlays are tailored to fit perfectly with minimal preparation. This makes cleaning a dental onlay easier than cleaning a crown.

Color: A dental onlay is less likely to discolor than a tooth-colored resin filling.

True Size: A composite filling may shrink while it cures, prefabricated gold or porcelain onlays will not.

Natural Tooth Preservation: Dental onlays allow our dentists to preserve the healthy tooth structure while restoring the damaged or decayed areas, this allows for functional longevity.

Stability: Dental onlays are strong and stable. Their superior fit and resilient material make onlays a great choice, sometimes even strengthening a damaged tooth. This strength occurs because a dental onlay does not require our dentists to totally reshape the tooth that is being restored.

Onlays are an Alternative to Crowns

A dental onlay offers patients a less expensive alternative to a full coverage crown. When our dentists prepare your tooth for an onlay, they save as much of your healthy tooth as they can. An onlay is a great option for you if you have moderate or minimal tooth decay extending into the flossing area.

If you want to learn more about dental onlays or any other dental procedure we offer, contact us today. We are happy to help you achieve the smile you have always wanted. If you want to learn more about the dental restoration techniques available at Espinal & Willis – Carolinas Center for Advanced Dentistry, contact us today. We are happy to help you and your family with all your dental needs.