Difference Between Inlays, Onlays, & Fillings | Which is Best for You

posted byMuse Dental GroupJanuary 12, 2021

Onlays, inlays, and fillings are some of the ways a hole in the tooth can be filled.

Which option is best for your case differs based on your needs.

In this article, we will discuss:

Inlays, Onlays, and Fillings: Defined

If your dentist has made a hole in your tooth to remove decay or restore the tooth after damage, that hole can be filled directly or indirectly. This can be done in a number of ways and differs based on the case and needs of the patient.

First, a direct filling would be silver or while filling that would be placed immediately, during the same visit.

A filling, for those who do not know, is a material used to fill a void in your tooth. They are most commonly used to treat cavities due to tooth decay.

On the other hand, inlays, onlays, and crowns are indirect restorations. They are created by the dentist through a mold or impression of the tooth. These impressions can be made digitally or physically.

Inlays are used to help restore teeth that have been affected by decay or injury and are specifically made to fit inside the tooth.

These custom inlays are also made to match the color of your teeth so that they look as natural as possible.

Similar to inlays, onlays are also used to support decayed or damaged teeth. However, they are placed on top of the tooth, to function as protection for the surface of the tooth.

An onlay is necessary when the cavity is too large to be filled with a filling or onlay and when the tooth is in need of additional fortification.

Therefore, an onlay not only serves to fill the void left by the cavity but also protect the tooth from further decay.

An onlay can best be compared to a dental crown, hence why they are often called “partial crowns.” However, unlike the dental crown, which covers the whole tooth, onlays only cover a part of the tooth.

The Durability of Inlays, Onlays, and Fillings

One of the benefits of inlays and onlays is that they are highly durable. Because they are made of strong materials like gold and porcelain, they do not suffer general wear-and-tear.

Although these materials come at a higher cost, they will prevent the need for replacements over time.

A dentist may also recommend getting an inlay or onlay because of this durability, especially if your teeth need extra support.

On the other hand, fillings are less durable than inlays and onlays. Since fillings are made of silver or resin, they can wear over time.

However, fillings still last a substantial amount of time, especially if they are made of metal.

Procedures for Inlays, Onlays, and Fillings

Since the procedure for fillings differs slightly from that of inlays and onlays, we are going to first explain what to expect when visiting the dentist for a filling.

After examining your teeth and taking x-rays, your dentist will prep your teeth for the procedure by numbing your mouth in the surrounding area to prevent any pain.

Next, your dentist will drill into the decayed portion of your tooth, removing it and replacing it with a filling.

The filing process is that simple!

Now, we are going to discuss the process of getting an inlay or onlay.

First, your dentist will numb your mouth and remove the decayed portion of the tooth.

Then, he or she will take an impression of the tooth with the removed portion so that the inlay or onlay can be created to fit perfectly into the tooth.

While the permanent inlay or onlay is being created in the lab, your dentist will put a temporary one in place to protect the tooth in the meantime.

Once the custom made inlay or onlay is created, you will need to return back to the dentist to get it placed.

Cost of Inlays, Onlays, and Fillings

Dental inlays and onlays cost relatively the same amount. However, since onlays are larger, they cost slightly more.

On average, a dental onlay can cost between $650 to $1,200 per tooth and a dental inlay can cost between $250 – $1,500 .

This price can vary depending on the dentist’s experience and what material the onlay is made of, ranging from composite to metal.

Dental fillings, on the other hand, are much cheaper than inlays and onlays but their cost also varies based on the material they are made of.

Fillings can range from $50 for silver amalgam fillings to $4000 for porcelain or gold.

Most dental insurance plans cover these procedures, so while they might seem pricey, you will not likely have to pay out of pocket.


If you require an inlay, onlay, or filling to restore your tooth after a cavity or create extra support after damage or decay, make an appointment with your dentist!

The dentists at Muse Dental will evaluate your case and determine which will function best for you.

Here at Muse Dental, we want to help you maintain your oral health and provide you with the best care possible. If you have suffered tooth damage or decay, schedule an appointment with us today!

We’d love to have you for a checkup at Muse Dental Group with Dr. G. Bardakjian. He will evaluate your oral health and will ensure your inlay, onlay, or filling is done with the utmost care.

Your smile is in great hands at Muse Dental Group!

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