Onlays vs. Fillings – Which is Better?

Onlays vs. Fillings – Which is Better?

Why Are Onlays Better Than Fillings?

Restorative dentistry has embraced versatility and diversity, evident in the number of dental restorations available for treatment. Today, diseased teeth are quicker to treat, thanks to various reparative solutions like dental fillings, inlays, onlays, or dental crowns.

Cavities are one of the most frequently seen issues regarding oral health and wellness. They are holes in the dental enamel caused by bacteria and plaque eating through the exterior protective layer of the teeth. When this occurs, dentists can repair the damage and fix the structure by placing a dental filling. If unsure which dental restorations are better for you, liaise with a capable dental team. You will understand the differences between each dental restoration and the benefits that apply uniquely to them.

What Are Dental Fillings?

Dental fillings are materials in dentistry for repairing damaged teeth. Many patients are familiar with dental fillings as a treatment for dental decay. The filling materials in dentistry differ based on patients’ preferences. You can get gold fillings, amalgams, or white fillings. In modern dentistry, more patients prefer white fillings over their counterparts for the aesthetic advantage.

Modern dental fillings utilize many materials to help you get the right fit for your situation. Some of the most popular include a silver amalgam made of metals like tin, cast gold, composite resin, and porcelain. Each has unique pros and cons, so it’s important to consider whether you prefer durability or a clean appearance.

Gold, for example, is one of the sturdiest options and will last between 15 and 20 years. The main downside is it is highly visible and can draw unwanted attention to that part of your smile.

A choice like composite resin or porcelain, on the other hand, is designed to match the natural shade of the teeth. This means it is practically invisible in your mouth. The downside is most of these fillings will need to be replaced every 5 to 10 years, depending on how well you care for them.

However, you can opt for a different type of dental filling called porcelain filling. Porcelain fillings can take different forms, typically inlay and onlays.

What is Onlay in dentistry?

They are dental restorations providing alternative reparative solutions to diseased and damaged teeth. Typically, patients with decayed teeth would assume they need a dental filling. However, it is not always the case that a dental filling is the best solution for your treatment. Sometimes dentists will recommend dental onlays because of their benefits in restorative dentistry.

After the Dental Onlay Procedure

  • After you have an inlay or onlay put in, you’ll be able to go home straight away. Dentists only use local anesthesia while working, so you should feel OK to go home. Your mouth and tongue will numb, but that’s normal and will go away in a couple of hours as the anesthesia wears off.
  • You can eat and drink freely after getting an inlay or onlay. You should wait until the numbness is gone first, though. This is mainly because as long as you’re numb, you won’t be aware of your tongue and lips and may bite them while chewing.

Dental Onlay Complications

  • Complications are uncommon with inlays and onlays. Some might experience an allergic reaction to the material used in the inlay, onlay, or anesthesia. Before they begin working, you should tell your dentist about allergies.
  • Another problem that might happen in the long run is that the seal of the inlay or onlay is lost. When the sealant is lost, space will appear, which can serve as a hiding spot for bacteria and ultimately decay.
  • To avoid complications, you should inform your dentist if you have any allergies, are on any meds, or are pregnant. If they give you any meds before the procedure, you should take them as instructed.
  • Call your dentist immediately if you notice any bleeding, fever, or pain after getting an inlay or onlay. These are issues that need to be dealt with urgently. Additionally, if you feel your bite isn’t the same, they might need to adjust the inlay or onlay. It’s simple and won’t take much time.

Dental onlays tend to last a long time without shrinking or staining, and they are also much easier to clean and aesthetically pleasing.

The Procedure of Dental Onlays Vs. Tooth Fillings

A dental filling procedure is very different from the process of installing onlays. For one, dental fillings are direct restorations. The dentist typically begins and completes the procedure in one dental sitting. The process entails drilling your tooth enamel to remove damaged tooth structure while ensuring no bacteria remain on the tooth.

Afterward, your dentist will begin the filling process. Using a tooth filling material of choice, the dentist fills up the prepared tooth, replacing the damaged enamel. Ideally, a tooth filling fills the cavity hole only. In contrast, onlays are indirect restorations. The dentist will need to perform the procedure in two separate dental visits.

The dentist prepares your tooth by removing the damaged enamel structure on the first visit. After that, (s)he takes the impression of your tooth, using it as a guide for creating your onlay. The preparation of an only takes time, usually about two weeks.

During this period, your dentist may place a temporary crown on your tooth, protecting it before the next phase of your treatment. Once the onlay is ready, installation relies on dental bonding using special cement to adhere to the natural tooth structure.

What Makes Dental Onlays Better Than Tooth Fillings?

Patients who choose dental onlays over traditional dental fillings do so for the right reasons. They include the following:

  1. Aesthetic advantage – other than white fillings, traditional dental fillings are conspicuous, compromising the appearance of your smile. Onlays typically feature porcelain, a tooth-colored material perfect for restoring teeth.
  2. Natural-looking results – a unique trait about porcelain is that it is life-like. When dentists use porcelain onlays for dental restorations, you can hardly tell the difference between them and your natural teeth.
  3. Durability – porcelain material is more durable than conventional white fillings. Therefore, if you are looking for a long-lasting dental restoration that improves your smile’s aesthetics, onlays are better. Besides, with proper care, onlays can last about 25 years, longer than composite fillings, lasting about 10-15 years.
  4. Sturdiness – molars, and premolars generally have to withstand much pressure when eating. The biting and chewing force on your back teeth necessitates a sturdy material that can withstand that pressure over time. Onlays prove to be sturdier than composite fillings in this regard.
  5. Strengthening teeth – onlays are sometimes called partial crowns because they are similar to dental crowns. However, instead of encapsulating an entire tooth, onlays cover only the top chewing surface of a tooth. In this way, onlays strengthen weak natural teeth by up to 75%.


There is no wrong decision when you choose between onlays and dental fillings. Your dentist will tell you that they are both effective for restoring teeth. The choice boils down to individual preferences.

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