Inlays, Filling, Onlays or Crowns?

Fillings vs. Inlays

In a sense, these are almost the same, except that the term “inlay” is typically used for very large cavities. Both solutions involve the removal of a pre-existing cavity and then filling that resulting in empty space, but the process of filling is how they ultimately differ. With a filling, the cleaned out empty space is filled with either an amalgam or composite material, and it’s a pretty quick process done in only one dental visit at Dr. Dennis Wells, of Nashville Center for Aesthetic Dentistry.

Inlays, Onlays, Crowns, Fillings

With an inlay, the drilled-out space is filled with one solid chunk of material that is designed in a dental lab, typically built with gold or ceramic. The completed inlay must precisely fit the shape and size of the empty space so that food and bacteria can’t get into space and cause more decay. One advantage of an inlay is that they do not shrink after being installed, as some fillings do, so there is less chance of failure. Inlays are a tough, durable surface for chewing, and are thought to be more reliable long term.

The major deterrent for dentists using inlays is the fact that many dental insurance policies will not pay for them. Instead, companies will try to lower the inlay to a filling category and only pay that lesser price, which someone ends up paying. Inlays are usually kept for patients with no insurance, who understand the charges and are willing to pay out of pocket.

Onlays vs. Crowns

Both dental crowns and “onlays” are used to repair very large areas of decay that fillings and inlays will not fix due to the size. The unique feature of an “onlay,” as opposed to an “inlay,” is that it can cover the cusp of a tooth, with an inlay only filling in between the cusps. The procedure is similar as the material is drilled and removed first, then an onlay is manufactured to the perfect size and shape of the empty space. Even more drastic, a crown will cover the whole tooth structure above the gum line.

An onlay is a less assertive restoration than a crown, if possible since less tooth material needs to be drilled out in order to attach it. But while the cost structure is similar, an onlay is a little cheaper than a crown. The onlay is always the favored solution when possible, as it requires less tooth loss. However, onlays are more difficult than crowns and require advanced skills from the dentist.

Again, cost becomes an issue when deciding between onlays and crowns. Similar to inlays vs. fillings, dental insurance is less likely to cover an onlay procedure. But since companies will cover a crown, because it is more widely chosen by dentists, onlays are left as a specialty procedure for more skilled dentists and patients with means to pay out of pocket for an expensive procedure.

Contact Nashville Center for Aesthetic Dentistry 


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105 Powell Ct Ste 101
Nashville, TN

Posted in Cosmetic Dentistry, Dental Crowns, Sedation Dentistry
cosmetic dentistry with a cosmetic dentist Nashville TN and Brentwood

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    • Always a pleasant experience. Love the professionalism, attention to detail and progressive attitude. I can't imagine ever going back to a bare basics old school mentality dental office. I tell everyone how great NCFAD is.
      —Robert T.
    • I always receive excellent service at Dr. Wells office. My hygienist Denise is AMAZING. I have very sensitive teeth and gums and now my visits don't have to be painful. The staff is wonderful and Dr. Wells is very patient and takes the time to listen and figure out the best protocol.
      —Shelley R.
    • I actually enjoy going to the dentist, knowing that I am in good hands with Dr. Wells and his amazing staff! They are professional, friendly and caring! The best!
      —Stacey R.
    • Dr. Wells and Dr. Weese and staff are the best in the business and just awesome people to top it off. You won't be disappointed.
      —Sherree T.
    • The entire staff at NCAD is friendly, helpful and professional. I can always be assured a good visit no matter what needs to be done.
      —David T.
    • Dr. Wells is an excellent cosmetic dentist. I traveled all the way from Houston area just to have him do my veneers. I highly recommend him!
      —Sabrina L.
    • This was the best dental experience I've ever had in my life and I've had a lot! The customer service and genuine care for the patients was outstanding!!
      —Kimberly S.
    • I LOVE this practice! THE most comprehensive initial exam I have ever had and every cleaning since has been wonderful. Love Dr. Wells, my girl Brooke and the entire staff; they are wonderful!
      —Amy W.
    • Wow what a great dentist practice. Absolutely the best. Both Dr Wells and Dr Weese are excellent and Carissa is the best. In fact everyone on their staff goes above and beyond in making my dental experience wonderful. I only wish I had found them sooner. Love the new smile. Best is the natural look.
      —Jeff C.
    • Another wonderful visit with everyone! Work mania caused me to be running late for my early morning appointment. Zee was able to reschedule me during lunch hour the same day. I was in a real crunch for time and they even made a smoothie for me so I could get immediately back to work! So wonderful and so grateful for everyone!
      —Michael S.
    • Love all of the staff at the office and Brook is a wonderful Dental Hygienist. I recommend you to anyone who is in need of superior dentistry.
      —Carol C.
    • Dr. Wells' staff, as always, offer the very best in a friendly, professional and patient focused environment. My dental health has never been so good. Thank you, Dr. Wells and Staff.
      —Stephen A.
    • The entire staff is so kind and caring. I've been going to the dentist for a long time but have never received the excellent care that I receive at Dr. Well's office. I'm so thankful to have a great place to go for dental care!!!
      —Allison T.
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    cosmetic dentist in Nashville TN

    AACD Accredited

    Dr. Wells has been an accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry since 1994, and serves on the review board as an examiner for other dentists seeking their cosmetic dentistry accreditation.

    aesthetic dentistry with a Nashville dentist in Brentwood TN

    Award Winning Dentistry award for cosmetic dentistry in Nashville Tennessee and Brentwood
    • Nashville Top Dentist 2017 in Cosmetic Dentistry
    • 2008 AACD Outstanding Scientific Advancement in Cosmetic Dentistry Award
    • Selected as one of the Top Dentists in America - 2005 and 2010
    • 2001 AACD Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Art and Science of Cosmetic Dentistry
    • 2005 Entrepreneur Award
    • Crown Council Best Dentist to Work For - 2008
    Nashville Center for Aesthetic Dentistry
    Dennis J. Wells, DDS
    Daniel K. Weese, DMD

    105 Powell Ct Ste 101
    Brentwood, TN 37027
    Call: 615-371-8878
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