Fillings are a common solution when you are faced with tooth decay. Fillings are a simple procedure. They can be completed in a single visit, and are minimally invasive. However, in some instances, the nature of your tooth decay makes a filling an impractical solution. A crown can be used, but are not always necessary, as they require removal of enamel. At National Dental Upper East Side, we offer an alternative: inlays and onlays.


Tooth decay is caused by oral bacteria. When bacteria are left to linger, either from missing an area of your mouth while brushing, or neglecting your oral healthcare routine, they can multiply quickly. They feed on any lingering food particles. As they eat, they produce harmful acids, which eat away at the enamel of your teeth. Eventually, small pits, or cavities form. Bacteria can take harbor in these pits, and the damage only continues to get worse.


Inlays and onlays are used to fill cavities on the chewing surfaces of your teeth. Each has their specific purpose. An inlay is used to fix the damage within a single cusp. An onlay, on the other hand, is meant to restore more significant damage, which covers the entire chewing surface of your tooth. It is sometimes referred to as a partial crown, meant to build up the structure of the tooth. Inlays and onlays can both be made out of composite resin, porcelain or gold.


Both inlays and onlays are what is known as an indirect filling. This means that they are custom created in a lab, from molds of your teeth. Before the restoration can be placed, the decay must first be removed from your tooth. Molds are then taken, which are used to create a restoration that fits perfectly. It can take up to 2 weeks for your inlay or onlay to be created, so a temporary one will be placed while you wait, which will help to prevent an infection in your tooth. When ready, we will check the restoration for fit, and then cement it permanently in place.


Both inlays and onlays offer several benefits:

  • Porcelain or even composite resin, inlays and onlays can perfectly match the color of your natural teeth.
  • Inlays and onlays avoid the use of mercury. Porcelain and composite resin fillings also help you to avoid an allergic reaction, if you have a metal allergy.
  • Inlays and onlays do not shrink during the curing process, like direct fillings (both amalgam and composite resin) do.
  • Inlays and onlays can strengthen an affected tooth, whereas direct fillings can sometimes weaken a tooth.
  • Inlays and onlays allow for more of your natural tooth to be preserved. A crown requires much of your enamel to be removed, which allows for a proper, comfortable fit. Even amalgam fillings require more tooth removal than inlays and onlays.
  • Inlays and onlays are a more affordable option than crowns.

If your teeth have suffered decay, treatment is needed. Contact National Dental Upper East Side today at (646) 736-2206 to schedule your appointment and find out if inlays or onlays are right for you.