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What’s The Difference: Filling vs. Inlay vs. Onlay vs. Crown

Woman in dental clinic

Teeth require constant maintenance. This means daily brushing, flossing, and regular visits to get them cleaned. When you experience infection or another issue due to improper maintenance, an accident, or a congenital disease, it’s important you get the area surrounding the tooth and the actual tooth itself healed as quickly as possible. When the cavity or rot has been addressed, you will need a way to cover the exposed area back up to restore functionality. 

There are many options when it comes to protecting your teeth. Depending on the amount of surface area you want covered, how much work you need done before the dental cover, and your overall budget, your oral surgeon may recommend a few different options. Fillings, inlays, onlays, and crowns are all common and effective solutions to an exposed tooth. To get a better idea of which may work best for you, Elizabeth Oral Surgery Group has put together a guide on the differences and intricacies between the four. 

Inlays and Onlays

An inlay is a small, factory-made piece of synthetic material used to cover up exposed teeth. The process is fairly simple and the small, custom-made piece will be fitted right over the lost surface. They are commonly crafted out of porcelain, gold, or metal. Onlays are similar in that they cover up lost sections of the tooth. Instead of being small, fitted pieces, however, the onlay is custom-made to cover the entirety of the tooth and cover larger, more at-risk teeth.

Inlays and onlays are considered a great way to protect your natural tooth without covering most of the surface area or needing to have your tooth shaved down. They also offer a good match to the natural look and color of your teeth, as well as durability and longevity. When compared to fillings and crowns, inlays and onlays allow you to keep more of your tooth and avoid more surgical procedures. 

Fillings and Crowns

A filling is a simple procedure that can be used as an alternative to an inlay. The area that is infected or rotting will be removed and the filling will be placed into the lost section of the tooth. Fillings are done with a liquid mixture that is meant to match the functionality and aesthetic of your tooth, though the color may not come as close as an inlay. For those looking to get the procedure done quickly, a filling can be done in one simple procedure, which an inlay cannot. However, inlays often last longer. 

Dental crowns are the most comparable to an onlay in that they cover the entire surface area of a shaved down tooth. The main difference between dental crowns and onlays is the amount of tooth that is covered. Dental crowns will often require a root canal first, which leaves you with a shaved down tooth. The crown is then fitted to match the look and feel of your other teeth. Given proper treatment and maintenance, crowns may last you longer than onlays, though they require more steps and more visits to your surgeon. 

Speak to a Professional Oral Surgeon About Which Option is Best For You

There are many aspects to consider when deciding which option works best for you. What are your priorities? Do you need other procedures done as well? To get a better picture of what option would work best for your specific situation, it’s important to get the professional guidance of an oral surgeon. With many years of experience and access to a state-of-the-art facility, the team at Elizabeth Oral Surgery Group is here to help navigate you toward a healthier and happier smile. 

To schedule your initial consultation, use our contact form or give us a call at (908) 663-5309.