A dental inlay restores a damaged tooth and is used when a tooth is too deteriorated for a simple filling but not yet decayed enough to require a crown. The cost of a dental inlay depends primarily on the material used and the size of the inlay. If you’re using insurance, the cost also depends on if your insurance carrier classifies an inlay as basic dental service or a major restorative procedure. According to DocShop.com, dental inlays cost between $650 to $1,200 per tooth, with an average price of $900 per tooth.
Purpose of Dental Inlays
Dentists sometimes use dental inlays in place of traditional fillings. As with a crown, the dentist takes an impression of the affected tooth for the dental laboratory to use as a mold for the inlay. The lab creates the inlay, which the dentist fits into and bonds to the tooth during a follow-up visit. Because dental schools don’t provide formal training in creating inlays, only a small number of dentists perform the procedure.
Inlays are available in porcelain, ceramic, metal and resin materials, and can be tooth-colored or gold. Tooth-colored inlays cost more than metal-colored, but differ only differ in appearance, not function. Porcelain inlays are most commonly used for front teeth or other teeth that show when you smile. Resin inlays are frequently used for people who grind their teeth or have a misalignment. Gold is usually used when appearance is not a primary concern, such as in the back teeth. The price of gold inlays fluctuates depending on the gold market, so they sometimes cost more than other materials. Porcelain may also cost more than other options if created by a technician with advanced knowledge and skills.
As with most dental procedures, the cost of a dental inlay is based on the specific tooth or teeth involved. Back teeth, for example, are more difficult to reach and require extra effort, so the cost is higher. Work on front teeth requires less work and therefore costs less. The size of the inlay also affects cost. Larger teeth require larger inlays, which cost more because of the amount of material used. An inlay for a tooth with significant damage also might cost more.
Insurance providers classify dental inlays as either basic or major services and have a pre-determined reimbursement rate for each category. If your insurance carrier considers inlays basic care -- the same category assigned to fillings, cleanings and other routine services -- it will likely reimburse you for around 80 percent of the procedure. If your insurance provider considers an inlay a major procedure, it will likely reimburse you less of the cost, probably around 50 percent. In many cases, your dentist can provide you an estimate based on the insurance provider you use.