Dental Inlays vs Dental Onlays vs Dental Crowns

March 19, 2024

Filed under: Uncategorized — drruiz @ 4:09 pm

​​If you’ve gone to the dentist to fix any symptom you’re feeling with your teeth, you’ve probably heard them recommend a lot of different things — a filling, an inlay, an onlay, a crown, etc.

To people who aren’t in the dental field, it’s easy to get these three treatments confused.

And since we don’t want you to be left in the dark about which is which, we decided to write this guide to clear things up.

Keep reading!

Dental inlay vs dental onlay vs dental crown

Dental onlays, inlays, and crowns are all restorations that are used to repair damage, decay, and cracks. However, while a dental crown covers the tooth’s surface, a dental onlay only covers the cusp, which is the elevated part of the tooth, and dental inlays only cover the space between the cups. Because of this, inlays and onlays are more conservative than crowns.

Both a dental crown and dental onlay serve the purpose of stopping further damage and saving a tooth. They are all typically made from porcelain, composite resin, ceramic, zirconia, or metal material.


The procedures involved in getting inlays, onlays, and crowns are fairly similar. The main difference is in the amount of decay your dentist removes and what the dental lab creates. For you, the procedure is the same!

Here are the typical steps in getting an inlay, onlay, and crown.

  1. Initial examination — Your dentist will examine the tooth in question and confirm what the appropriate treatment is, whether that be an inlay, onlay, or crown.
  2. Preparation of your tooth — Your dentist will remove the decay from your natural tooth to prepare the tooth for the restoration. There are times when a root canal is also needed to remove bacteria from inside the tooth. And while 
  3. Dental impressions — Your dental team will then take impressions of your tooth and send them to a dental lab where the technician will create your custom inlay, onlay, or crown
  4. Temporary replacement — As the dental lab will usually take a couple of weeks to create the restoration; your dentist will give you a temporary one while you wait.
  5. Final placement — Once your dentist has received your restoration from the dental lab, they will attach it to your tooth.

How long do they last?

The lifespan of a dental crown, dental inlay, and dental onlay varies depending on factors like if you grind your teeth, your oral hygiene, and the material used. On average, though, they typically last between 5 to 15 years. 

How much do they cost?

The cost of treatment also varies, but, in general, crowns will be the most expensive, followed by onlays, then inlays simply because of the size of the restoration. There are many other factors that contribute to the total cost of each procedure like:

  • The location of the tooth
  • How much repair is needed
  • The material being used
  • Insurance coverage (most dental insurance plans cover part of the cost of inlays, onlays, and crowns)
  • The reputation of your dental office

How do you know which one you need?

To find out what kind of restoration you need, visit your dentist. It’s also important to visit a dentist with significant experience and expertise in restorative dentistry (and supra-gingival minimally invasive dentistry) as they might help you avoid unnecessary removal of the tooth structure. 

For example, it’s not uncommon for dentists to remove a significant amount of your natural tooth structure when placing a crown. Dr. Ruiz, however, removes only the damaged tissue and avoids the gumline, allowing for a healthier restoration. Additionally, not all dentists do inlays and onlays, so if you want those as an option, do some research into which dentists in your area do.

Visit Dr. Ruiz & Associates for a dentist in Burbank

You don’t need to sit around wondering if you need an inlay, onlay, or crown. You need to visit a dentist to confirm what you need!

And if you are looking for a dentist in Burbank who can do this, come visit Dr. Ruiz & Associates. Dr. Ruiz is a renowned dentist, educator, and researcher who is known as a pioneer in supra-gingival minimally invasive dentistry, or “above the gums dentistry.” This is a healthier form of dentistry that protects soft oral tissues and produces long-lasting, beautiful results. And all of our staff are trained in these techniques.

Check out our Google reviews and schedule an appointment with us.

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