Inlays vs Onlays vs Fillings: Which Is Best?

Dentist,And,Patient,In,Dentist,Office Tooth decay from cavities can lead to permanent structural damage, but inlays, onlays, and dental fillings offer restoration and preservation. When considering the best method for treating a patient, a skilled dentist will consider factors such as the extent of damage, the cosmetic impact on the patient’s self-image, and the long-term benefits of a particular treatment.

Before you go in for a standard filling, learn about inlays and onlays to understand how they may offer unique advantages to your smile.


Dental inlays are customized pieces of porcelain, ceramic, or gold that are built to fit into a damaged tooth. When teeth have become severely damaged from tooth decay, an inlay can fill in the gap while preserving the remaining portion of the tooth.

Benefits of Inlays

Inlays are capable of strengthening the structural integrity of a tooth, whereas traditional fillings can further weaken it. They are also long-lasting, with an average lifespan of 10 to 30 years.


Similar to inlays, dental onlays are customized fittings for your teeth. However, they are designed to cover one or more cusps of the tooth; cusps are the pointed or rounded projections on the tooth that aid chewing. Onlays can further preserve and restore teeth that have been damaged from repeated fillings, tooth decay, or other types of structural damage.

Benefits of Onlays

Onlays are highly durable and, like inlays, custom-made for your tooth. They also do not require removing further tooth structures like crowns. This makes them a good alternative for patients who need additional coverage and stability but want to retain as much of their natural tooth structure as possible.


Though they are the longest-standing form of cavity treatment, fillings are not always the best for a patient’s oral health. Though they can work in mild to moderate cases, they often fail in more severe situations.

Fillings can also weaken the structure of a tooth, leading to future complications. A filling is not inherently bad, however, and it is the frontline of treatment and the most affordable option when it comes to restoring teeth and treating cavities.

Benefits of Fillings

Dental fillings can be completed in one office visit, while inlays and onlays require at least two. Fillings are available in various materials, and they can be more affordable than other restorative treatments.

Schedule a Consultation Today

If you are looking for an experienced dentist in Denver, CO, Dr. Louisa I. Gallegos, MSD, is always happy to see new patients. A specialist in restorative dentistry, she is an accomplished prosthodontist who works tirelessly to give every patient a happy, beautiful smile.

To arrange a visit, please contact our office online or call 303-316-4034.

Louisa Gallegos, DDS, MSD Prosthodontist

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