Dental Onlay and Inlay vs Crown

Cookie Monster
February 28, 2017

Sometimes, fillings fall out. This can be from normal wear and tear, worsening decay of the tooth, or disease or infection. In this instance, either a dental onlay or inlay or a crown is used. This article will go over both dental options, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each.

What Is It?

Dental Inlay and Onlay

Dental inlays and onlays are very similar techniques used to fill a hole in the tooth from cavity, injury, or decay. A dental inlay is crafted using the specifications of the hole in the tooth, as well as the tooth itself. A custom inlay is created to fill the hole and cover the tooth. An onlay is similar to this, however, it uses the cusps of the infected tooth to secure the onlay in place.


A crown is a fitting that covers the entire tooth. It is often used only when at least 50% of the tooth is infect. Dental inlays and onlays may not work in this situation.

Inlay/Onlay vs. a Crown

An inlay/onlay uses less material, so it is less expensive to fill than a crown. It also saves a lot more of the healthy tooth, preserving it to prevent further damage. The downside is that inlays and onlays will not work for all situations, especially if there is a moderate to severe amount of tooth decay. They also take two visits to be fitted instead of one, since they must be created for a customized fit.

The Benefits

Benefits of Inlays

  • Natural appearance
  • More durable than metal fillings
  • Will not wear and tear with exposure to hot and cold food
  • Resists force when you bite down
  • Care for them like you would your natural teeth
  • Customized for a better fit

Benefits of Onlays

  • Easy to clean
  • Helps preserve the natural tooth underneath
  • Will not shrink
  • Unlike to become discolored
  • Strong and stable

So, Which is Better?

Looking at the facts about each, it seems inlays and onlays are the better choice. They are customized for a better fit and withstand wear and tear. Additionally, they are easy to care for and help preserve the tooth. However, they will not work in all situations. Speak to your dentist about whether a crown or an inlay or onlay, or simply go with low cost of cfast braces whichever is best for your situation.

A Little More About Inlays and Outlays

You can expect to pay around $250-$1,500 for an inlay or $350-$1,500 for an onlay. The total cost will factor in several things, including the type of material used, how much material is worked on, and the dental office you choose to work with.

Usually inlays and onlays are fitted in two visits. During the first, a mold will be taken and during the second, it will be fitted to your tooth.

While it would seem inlays and onlays are the better choice, they will not work for extreme tooth decay or situations where 50% of the tooth is infected. Your dentist can offer more information and a recommendation based on your specific dental situation.