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Filling, Crown, Inlay, or Onlay: Which Restoration Is Right For You?

Most Americans will require dental restoration, like a filling, at some point. In fact, tooth decay is so common that nearly 90% of American adults between 20 and 64 will get at least one cavity in their lifetime, according to the National Center for Dental and Craniofacial Research.

While a cavity or two may not seem significant, they will progressively worsen. They can lead to more serious oral health problems if left untreated. 

Our prosthodontist, Dr. Ramin Mahallati and our team at the Center for Implant & Esthetic Dentistry offer a range of restorative and cosmetic dentistry services at our Beverly Hills, California office.

The difference between fillings, crowns, inlays, and onlays

If you’ve never had a cavity, congratulations! If you have, don’t worry because you’re in good company. While cavities are common among adults, they're also a problem for children.


Fillings are among the most common dental restorations for treating small to moderate-sized cavities. Depending on the size, location, and extent of decay, the damaged portion of the tooth is removed, filled, and sealed to restore the tooth.

Dental crowns

A crown acts as a cover or “cap” for a damaged tooth. If a cavity is too large to be treated with a standard filling, a dental crown may be used to save the healthy portion of the tooth. Crowns are also used to seal a tooth after a root canal or to replace a missing tooth with a bridge or dental implant.

Crowns also strengthen and reinforce a weak or fractured tooth.


An onlay is like a surface filling. It's typically used to treat decay on the cusp of a tooth when the damage isn’t extensive enough to require a crown. Onlays use tooth-colored materials like composite resin or porcelain for a natural and subtle-looking finish. 

Onlays are usually recommended when a standard filling can’t provide enough support for the damaged tooth.


Inlays fill the inside of a damaged or decayed tooth. Inlays are used to fill larger cavities, but they’re limited to damage in the center of the tooth. The size and location of the cavity will determine whether a filling or an inlay is the best restoration.

If you suspect a cavity or have symptoms of an oral health problem like tooth pain, bleeding gums, inflammation, tooth sensitivity, or gum recession, schedule an appointment immediately.

Many oral health issues start with mild to no symptoms, so practicing good oral hygiene at home and visiting our team for a dental exam and cleaning every six months are essential.

For more information about choosing the right dental restoration for your needs, contact the Center for Implant & Esthetic Dentistry today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mahallati in Beverly Hills.

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