I Need a Filling, Now What?

Dentistry has evolved into being able to do some pretty amazing techniques. New knowledge and equipment which is constantly improving means almost anything can be done to improve your teeth.  Cambridge uses the best technology available for these types of dental procedures. If you need dental fillings or some dental work done, we would like to share some of the questions and answers many clients have asked about fillings, specifically inlays and onlays.

Dental Fillings

Dentist and Patient

What’s the difference between an inlay and a filling?

A dental inlay is similar to a filling. When repairing a defect in the tooth created by cavities, it is the amount and area of the tooth which will determine whether it is an inlay or onlay restoration. After the diseased part of the tooth is drilled down to a healthier tooth, a filling is used to protect and repair the defect.

An inlay is a filling meant to fill in a concave cavity, but does not extend or go around the borders of the cusps.  It will cover the chewing surface of the tooth.  Many different materials are available to use as either inlays or dental fillings.

Cavity Dental Fillings

Teeth Cavity

Large dental fillings can possibly weaken the remaining part of your teeth with a possibility of the teeth breaking, cracking or causing a future root canal. Capping defective teeth unnecessarily with crowns permanently changes the structure of the teeth; so it is imperative to know exactly what the diseased teeth will require in way of fillings or crowns.

This is where an onlay can help. They fall somewhere between dental fillings and dental crowns, also like inlays, restoring teeth which have larger cavities.

Sometimes, a tooth is planned to be restored with an intracoronal restoration, but the decay is so extensive that a direct restoration, such as using an amalgam filling, would compromise the structural integrity of the restored tooth. In these situations, an indirect gold or porcelain inlay restoration may be needed instead.

What types of inlays are there?

There are a number of these, including:

  • amalgam (silver)
  • composite dental fillings (tooth colored)
  • glass ionomer (tooth colored)
  • gold inlays and onlay (gold )
  • the porcelain kind (tooth colored)

What is the difference between these types of fillings?

Amalgam dental fillings are silver colored. They are made by combining mercury and a silver alloy. For at least 150 years Amalgam has been used because it is economical and can last up to 15 years. This type of filling is typically used on the back ‘chewing’ teeth. The chemical nature of mercury changes when combined with other necessary materials used in dental amalgams and is harmless.

Amalgam Dental Fillings


Composite fillings are matched to the tooth color and are considered strong; however amalgam fillings may be tougher. Composite fillings are made from powdered glass quartz, or silica and combined with other ceramic particles added to a resin base.

Composite Dental Fillings on Teeth

Composite Filling

Glass ionomer dental fillings are generally used on non-biting surfaces, such as the ‘necks’ of the teeth. They also are used on baby teeth. This particular filling can release fluoride to help in prevention of tooth decay.

Gold inlays or onlays are used in most areas of the mouth. Gold is very hard-wearing and last a considerable long time. It does not tarnish and has great strength, yet this type of filling can be more expensive. Gold dental fillings are created in the laboratory.

Porcelain is matched to your natural tooth color. These are hard-wearing and very long lasting. Porcelain can be quite expensive.  Cambridge uses a digital technology called CADCAM to create perfect fitting porcelain inlays.

CADCAM Dental Fillings

CADCAM Technology

What does the procedure entail?

An inlay or onlay procedure is generally completed in two dental visits.

On your first visit, your dentist will prepare your damaged tooth. We than take a mold impression your tooth and send it to a dental laboratory, where an inlay or onlay is designed. A fitted, temporary inlay or onlay can be created during this visit to protect the tooth while the final restoration is being completed. Your dentist will discuss with you the best type of inlay or onlay material for your needs.

During your next visit, the temporary is replaced with your new inlay or onlay.  Inlays and onlays are extremely stable and they seldom fail. Your dentist will check your bite to be certain there is no occlusion-related problems the restoration. Once fitted, the inlay or only is bonded onto the tooth permanently and the margins are polished.

What does it cost for inlays or onlays?

The average cost ranges from $250 to $1,500, and for onlays, on the average between $350 and $1,500.The cost of a dental inlay or onlay procedure depends on many factors, including:

  • The dentist performing the procedure. Each dentist has different experience and specialties, their fees will reflect their experience and training.
  • The cost of inlay and onlay services can vary in different geographical locations.
  • The part of the teeth being worked on. The back teeth are more difficult to maneuver than front teeth.
  • The type of material used for the defective tooth. Some materials are more expensive.
  • The size of the inlay or onlay. Naturally, larger onlays are going to cost more than smaller inlays.

Does dental insurance cover this procedure?

Ask Cambridge to submit a pre-treatment estimate to your dental insurance company so you can a better idea of your insurance benefit. Usually dental insurance companies will place an inlay or onlay procedure in one of two categories: either as a ‘basic’ service or a ‘major’ service.  Some companies offer a reimbursement rate. We will do our very best to assist you through this process.


A dental inlay or onlay can last up to 30 years! The health of your teeth comes from practicing excellent oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly.

The success of your dental procedure is important to us at Cambridge. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at (316) 687-2110 or toll free at (877) 687-2110.

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