An onlay is a durable, strong porcelain filling that fits onto the tooth, protecting it from further decay. Dental onlays are used as an alternative to dental crowns, to fill fairly large cavities in cases where there may be not be enough of the existing tooth surface left to support a white filling.

What is a Dental Onlay?

A dental onlay is a special type of tooth restoration that mainly deals with the biting surfaces of a tooth (known as cusps). Sometimes, there is a problem with the cusp or cusps of a tooth. Rather than applying something like an interior filling or crown, an onlay can be used to repair the cusp of the tooth, and act as a protective barrier to prevent further decay. In other words, an onlay is somewhere between a filling and a full crown, and it repairs and protects the bite surfaces of the tooth.

Why is a Dental Onlay Used?

In most cases, onlays are used when a filling or crown is not necessary. A tooth that has a little bit of decay can be cleaned and repaired with an onlay. As well, if a tooth has minor fractures, it can be repaired and protected with the application of an onlay.

What is the Benefit of a Dental Onlay vs. a Dental Crown?

There are many advantages to using onlays instead of crowns. Some of the main advantages include:

  • They are more durable than regular fillings
  • Less tooth structure will be removed with an onlay than with a crown
  • Dental onlays last much longer than regular fillings
  • Dental onlays act as protective barriers against future tooth decay and tooth loss
  • Dental onlays can help prevent the need to extract a tooth after a root canal has been performed

How are Dental Onlays Applied?

Dental onlays require a two-step process, usually spread out over two appointments. During the first appointment, your teeth will be prepared to have the onlays put on. Decayed portions of the tooth will be removed and temporary fillings will be placed. Molds of your teeth will be taken and sent to the lab to have the new onlays created. This appointment will require the use of anesthetic to numb the nerves so that you will not feel any pain.

During the second appointment, the temporary fillings will be removed and the new onlays applied. Any adjustments that need to be made to ensure a good fit will take place during this appointment. Once a perfect fit has been found, the onlays will be permanently cemented in place, and you’re done!

Are Dental Onlays Expensive?

The cost of dental onlays will depend on each individual patient and the extent of dental work required. The good news is, if you have a dental benefits plan, in most cases, some or all of the costs will be covered. The best thing to do is have your dentist submit a predetermination (estimate) to your benefits provider before you begin treatment. This way you’ll know what to expect in terms of how much will be covered and how much you will have to pay out of pocket.

How long will Dental Onlays Last?

As noted, with proper care and dental hygiene, your dental onlays can last up to thirty years! Ask our dentists for more information.