An inlay or onlay is a partial crown restoration that can be placed when there is not sufficient tooth structure to support a filling, but not quite large enough to require a crown. They are made of a composite or porcelain that aesthetically replaces the missing tooth structure.
When a tooth is significantly damaged that it cannot support a tooth filling but not damaged enough for a dental crown, a middle-ground approach is often chosen. Capping a damaged tooth unnecessarily with a dental crown removes more tooth structure than needed. But a large dental filling can weaken the remaining structure of the tooth, causing the tooth to break, crack or eventually need a root canal.
When you’re faced with the choice between a large tooth filling or a dental crown, do you save money now and risk major dental problems in the future or possibly endure an unwanted dental treatment?
The dental restoration that can solve your problem is dental onlays. Dental onlays fall somewhere in between dental fillings and dental crowns. Like dental inlays, onlays restore large cavities without having to use a crown.
Dental inlays and onlays are the same kind of restoration, but they cover different proportions of the tooth. A dental inlay fills the space in between the cusps, or rounded edges, at the center of the tooth’s surface. The dental onlay works like an inlay but covers one or more cusps or the complete biting surface of the tooth. Due to their extensive coverage, dental onlays are occasionally referred to as partial crowns.