Choosing Between Inlays/Onlays and Fillings
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Choosing Between Inlays/Onlays and Fillings

Oral health is one of the critical factors that determine our general health. Hence, the importance of proper oral hygiene cannot be overemphasized. However, we cannot always avoid some things, and this includes dental diseases. Many things can happen to a person’s teeth, and tooth decay is one of them. Tooth decay causes dental cavities, and sometimes we don’t notice the cavities until they get large and start hurting.

When a person has a cavity, the treatment option can be a choice between inlays or onlay and fillings. These are both treatment options for a dental cavity, and they can help you avoid more severe dental problems in the future.


Dental fillings can be used to treat small or medium cavities. Dental fillings are for people who have broken, cracked, or worn-out teeth. To get dental fillings in New Westminster, the dentist will first have to remove the decayed portion of the affected tooth.

The dentist may need to administer local anesthesia to numb the affected tooth. When the anesthesia sets in, the cavity can be cleaned out using drills or laser After clearing out the decayed part, the dentist uses a tooth-coloured filling material to fix the tooth directly in the mouth.


Sometimes, a direct filling may not be sufficient to fill a cavity, especially those teeth located at the back of the mouth. Inlays or onlays may be needed in these cases.  The process is similar to getting a filling done however the inlay or onlay has to be made outside the mouth.  The materials used may be similar to those used for fillings or may be porcelain or gold.

A dental filling is a relatively quick procedure and is completed the same day. However, an inlay or an onlay is a more involved procedure and may require two visits to the dentist’s office.

In the first appointment, the dentist will clean the cavity and scan the tooth.  This digital scan or impression is used by the laboratory to make your custom restoration.

The dentist will put a temporary filling in your mouth and book you to come back another time to get your final restoration inserted.

When you go back for your second appointment, the customized inlay or onlay will be ready to bond to the tooth during that visit. The dentist will also brief you on how to take care of the restoration.

At our office, we can also use a mill to fabricate the restorations outside the mouth on the same day so that you do not have to come back for a second appointment.

Differences Between Inlays and Fillings

There are a lot of factors that distinguish inlays/onlays from traditional fillings, although they are both used for the same purpose: to fill a cavity.

The major difference between inlays/onlays and filling is that fillings can be made directly in the mouth, while inlays and onlays are indirect restorations that need to be made outside the mouth.  Because they need to be made outside the mouth, inlays/onlays may require more than one appointment.

Because they are custom-made, inlays and onlays are usually more expensive than traditional fillings. However, they are more robust, more durable, and last longer than fillings.

Inlays (or onlays) as well as fillings can both used to fill cavities. But they have several differences. It would be best to discuss which treatment options would be ideal for your case with your dentist.