Skip to main content

Inlays, Onlays, Crowns, and Fillings: A brief Explanation

Inlays, Onlays, Crowns, and Fillings: A brief Explanation

Cavities and tooth decay or damage are among the most common reasons anyone needs to see a dentist. Many people assume that fixing these issues is a fairly basic procedure. And while most every dentist can easily correct them, not all fillings are created equal, and there are actually several different ways in which a dentist may go about it. Here’s a brief explanation of the differences between inlays, onlays, crowns, and fillings.

Standard Fillings

A general filling is the most common way a dentist can correct tooth decay and cavities. Standard fillings are used on cavities that are usually on the smaller side. In order to insert a filling a dentist will remove any decay that surrounds the cavity (after using an anesthetic of course!) and then put the filling material over the tooth where it will harden, preventing further decay and stopping any pain associated with the cavity.


If a cavity becomes too large, a filling may actually weaken the structure and cause the tooth to crack. This is why inlays are usually recommended for larger cavities.

For larger cavities, a dentist will still remove any excess decay, but instead of simply filling the cavity, they will actually create a molding of the tooth to place over it. Correcting a cavity may take a few weeks, but inlays protect the tooth just as well (if not better) than a filling, and usually last significantly longer.


Much like an Inlay, onlays are used on teeth with cavities or that have been damaged in a way that can’t be treated with by normal fillings.

Where an inlay is used to cover cavities in the grooves or center of a tooth however, an onlay is used to repair damage to the cusps, or points of a tooth. Both inlays and onlays are applied to a tooth using dental cement, ensuring an extremely strong bond.


Dental crowns are the final option for a damaged or decayed tooth before a dentist will have to actually extract and replace a tooth.

When a tooth is very badly decayed or damaged, a dentist will remove a large portion of the original tooth—including parts of the tooth not affected by decay or damage. Because of this, dentists carefully weigh the benefits of using a crown over other options before going forward with the procedure.

Once the tooth has been prepared, a dentist will place a crown over what’s left of the original tooth, protecting it and providing the patient with normal dental function once again.

At Signature Smile, our dentists are experienced in all of these procedures, and will gladly answer any other questions you may have. If you think you may need an inlay, onlay, crown, or filling, make an appointment for a free consultation at our Brooklyn Heights office today!

Signature Smile Dental Signature Smile Dental

Dr. Inna Trogan – DDS is experienced in cosmetic dentistry, periodontics, and general dentistry. An active member of the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Dental Association, Dr. Trogan continuously stays up-to-date on the latest state-of-the-art technologies and advances in dentistry. She takes personal pride in providing courteous and high quality professional treatment for all of her patients’ dental care needs.

Our dentists have served the residents of Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, DUMBO, and all of our other surrounding communities for years. They can be reached by phone, 718.246.5677 or at their office in 100 Pineapple Walk, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201. You can also book an appointment online.


You Might Also Enjoy...

Protecting Yourself Against Oral Cancer

If there were a quick way to identify pre-cancerous cells in the mouth of someone you loved, would you want them to try it? Lets take a quick look at a few of the risk factors and symptoms, and consider a few options you may have to help reduce risk.
National Brush Day After Halloween Dos and Don’ts

National Brush Day After Halloween Dos and Don’ts

It’s more than a coincidence that America celebrates National Brush Day on November 1, exactly one day after bidding adieu to Halloween. After binging on candy for so long, naturally, everyone is obsessed with getting their kids’ teeth back in shape.
Avoiding Candy Cavity Horrors This Halloween

Avoiding Candy Cavity Horrors This Halloween

As a concerned parent who can’t bear the thought of depriving your children of their trick and treat candy experience and yet worry about the consequences on their delicate teeth, here’s how you can eat the cake and keep it too!