Dental Inlays and Onlays in Spring Branch & Memorial, Houston, TX

What are Dental Inlays and Onlays?

Inlays and onlays are types of dental restorations that are used to repair teeth that have moderate damage or decay. They are often referred to as “indirect fillings” or “partial crowns” because they are created outside of the mouth in a dental laboratory and then bonded to the tooth during a second visit to the dentist.

Inlays are used when the damage is within the cusps, or bumps, on the chewing surface of the tooth. Onlays, on the other hand, are used when the damage extends beyond one or more of the cusps.

Gold is often considered the best material for inlays and onlays due to its durability and strength. It is also highly biocompatible, meaning it is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. However, gold is not tooth-colored, so it may not be the best choice for those who are concerned about the aesthetics of their smile.

Pros and Cons of Inlays and Onlays vs Fillings:


  1. Durability: Inlays and onlays are more durable than fillings, especially when made from gold. They can last up to 30 years, while fillings typically last about 5-15 years.
  2. Strength: Inlays and onlays can actually increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75%, while fillings can reduce the strength of a tooth.
  3. Precision: Inlays and onlays are created in a lab, which allows for a more precise fit than fillings.


  1. Cost: Inlays and onlays are more expensive than fillings.
  2. Time: Because they are created in a lab, inlays and onlays require at least two visits to the dentist.

Comparison of Onlays and Crowns:

Onlays and crowns are both used to restore damaged teeth, but they are used in different situations. Onlays are used when the damage to the tooth is moderate, and the tooth still has a healthy root. Crowns, on the other hand, are used when the damage to the tooth is extensive, or when the tooth has undergone root canal therapy.

While crowns cover the entire tooth, onlays only cover a portion of the tooth. This means that more of the natural tooth structure can be preserved with an onlay. However, crowns provide more protection for the entire tooth and are often more durable than onlays.

In terms of cost, crowns are typically more expensive than onlays due to the amount of tooth preparation and material required. However, the final decision between an onlay and a crown should be made in consultation with your dentist at Lifeworks Dental, who can evaluate your specific situation and recommend the best treatment option.