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Inlays and Onlays

Woman smiling with perfect teethTooth decay is the deterioration of the hard tissues of the enamel, dentin, and periodontium. Decay is unpredictable, cavities can start within the chewing surface of a tooth and go deeper into the root or spread over the tooth's crest and erode it from the sides. Decay can start off as a small cavity and weaken its structural integrity over time, making it more prone to breaking, cracking, and chipping. Modern dentistry has created modes of treatments that effectively clean the decay, rebuild damaged tooth structure, and seal the tooth's enamel. Schnierow Dental Care performs many of these treatments including crowns, fillings, dental bridges, inlays and onlays, and root canals. Inlays and onlays are a type of filling that is precisely prefabricated in a dental lab to fill a cavity and strengthen the tooth's chewing surface.


Inlays differ from onlays in size and placement. They are typically smaller and fit within the cusps of the tooth's chewing surface. To install an inlay the decayed tissue of the cavity is removed, and an impression is made for the inlay to fit the patient's bite. The inlay is fabricated in a dental lab. The patient may receive a temporary filling while the inlay is made. When the inlay is ready to be installed, it is cemented into the space, and adjusted to fit the bite.

How Are They Different From Dental Fillings?

Inlays and onlays are custom made fillings. They are precisely fabricated in a dental lab to fit the exact dimensions of the cavity using a dental impression or scan. Both treatments effectively seal the tooth, bonding to its enamel and keeping out harmful bacteria. Inlays and onlays contract less than fillings, reducing the risk of bacteria reinfecting the tooth. To install a filling, the decayed tissue of the cavity is removed, and the space is reshaped with a drill. The cleaned cavity is then filled with composite resin or silver amalgam and shaped to fit the bite. Inlays and onlays are rarely covered by insurance. Inlays are reserved for patients without insurance, or patients who understand the additional costs of fillings.


Onlays are similar to inlays in both fabrication method and installation. Onlays differ from inlays in size; they are larger than inlays, they are used to restore the morphology of a tooth's chewing surface, and the sides of the tooth if necessary. Onlays can be used in place of a crown and are similar in cost. Teeth that have a root canal may not be eligible for an onlay. The tooth has a weakened structure and onlays may not effectively prevent chipping or fractures.

Is There Anything I Can Do Besides Inlays and Onlays?

There are many modes of treatment for teeth damaged from decay. Not all treatments are effective for your conditions. One of our dentists at Schnierow Dental Care can give you a dental exam and determine which treatment plans you are eligible for. Inlays and onlays are not covered by most insurance companies, so it may be helpful to consult your insurance company and their coverage of these treatments. Give us a call at (424) 383-5005 to schedule an exam or consultation.
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Hawthorne, CA

13450 Hawthorne Blvd. Hawthorne, CA 90250-5806

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Schnierow Dental Care, 13450 Hawthorne Blvd., Hawthorne, CA 90250 ~ (424) 383-5005 ~ ~ 6/19/2024 ~ Page Keywords: dentist Hawthorne CA ~