The Difference Between Inlays and Onlays

When it comes to dental restorations, most of us are familiar with fillings, crowns, and veneers. Inlays and onlays are lesser-known, but they serve important purposes in helping you enjoy years of beautiful smiles.

At Rozenberg Dental NYC in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Lana Rozenberg, DDS, and her team provide inlays and onlays with state-of-the-art techniques and materials to help patients improve the health and beauty of their smiles. In this blog, Dr. Rozenberg explains what inlays and onlays are.

All about inlays and onlays

Inlays and onlays target similar dental issues. However, they have some differences. Here’s a breakdown of what they do:


Like a dental crown, inlays and onlays are restorations that are designed to improve and strengthen a tooth’s structure after it’s been damaged by decay or trauma. Inlays and onlays are often used to repair teeth that have too much damage to be repaired with a regular filling but aren’t damaged to the extent that they require a crown.

Inlays and onlays preserve as much of the healthy tooth as possible while adding strength and durability to withstand the pressures of biting and chewing. Because they typically cover less of the tooth surface than a full dental crown, inlays and onlays are sometimes referred to as “partial crowns.”


The main differences between inlays and onlays is how much of the tooth they cover. An inlay is put on the central part of the chewing surface of the teeth. The entire inlay is contained within the chewing edges or “points” of the tooth..


By contrast, an onlay covers the central part of the chewing surface like an inlay, but it also extends beyond that portion to include the edges of the top of the tooth. Onlays may also extend down the side of the tooth, depending on how much of the tooth is damaged. Applying an onlay is less “aggressive” than placing a crown, allowing you to maintain more of your natural tooth structure.

Types of inlays and onlays

Initially, inlays and onlays were primarily made of gold. Today, many inlays and onlays are made of durable porcelain or composite materials. Both of these materials can be custom tinted to match the rest of your tooth. Inlays and onlays are custom made to fit the contours of your tooth. 

It typically takes two visits to place an inlay or onlay. At the first visit, the decayed or damaged part of the tooth is removed, and an impression is made of the tooth. The impression is then sent to a lab where the inlay or onlay is made.

At the second appointment, Dr. Rozenberg places the inlay or onlay with bonding material and makes any adjustments for a perfect fit. Besides replacing the decayed portion of the tooth, an inlay or onlay will help prevent future cavities from developing and will also help strengthen your tooth to reduce the risk of future damage.

Let us help you preserve your beautiful smile

Dr. Rozenberg is dedicated to helping her patients get the care and guidance they need to enjoy a lifetime of good oral health. In addition to providing state-of-the-art restorations, she and her team provide comprehensive preventive care and education to help patients play a proactive role in their oral health.

To learn more about the restorations we offer or to schedule a regular checkup, book an appointment online or over the phone with Rozenberg Dental NYC today.

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