Preventative Dental Tips

Inlays & Onlays

Our preventative treatments can help you avoid the inconvenience and discomfort of dental problems like decay and damage to your teeth.

Inlays & Onlays

Dental Restorations that Protect Your Teeth

Inlays and onlays are dental restorations that are primarily used to repair teeth that are badly damaged by decay or wear. If a tooth’s chewing surface has substantial decay or holds a large filling that is worn or cracked, your dentist may recommend an inlay or onlay to restore the tooth. 

Unlike a silver-colored amalgam filling or a small tooth-colored filling that the dentist places into the prepared tooth during one office visit, inlays and onlays are custom-made. The inlay or onlay may be made by the dentist, in a laboratory, or with a computer-assisted design and manufacturing procedure before it is cemented into or onto a prepared tooth.

What is an inlay?

An inlay is a special type of filling that may be used to restore the chewing surfaces of a back tooth (molar, premolar or bicuspid). It fits into the contours of the tooth, between the cusps (points) of the biting surface, restoring the space that remains after the dentist removes the decay or old filing. A gold inlay may be favored for durability and longevity over a direct filing, such as an amalgam or a tooth-colored filling that is placed into the tooth in one visit.

Inlays are made from tooth-colored materials, such as composite resin or porcelain, and from gold alloys. The tooth-colored materials provide the patient and dentist an option when appearance is a primary concern. Gold alloys may be used when high strength is needed and there is less concern about matching tooth color. 

What is an onlay?

An onlay covers the biting surface and one or more cusps (the peaks of the tooth). It may be used to provide greater coverage for a tooth that has lost much of its biting surface when decay damages the surface between teeth. We may recommend an onlay based on the extent of damage to the tooth. 

What does the treatment involve?

During the first visit, the dentist prepares the tooth by removing the old filing or decay. The remaining tooth is shaped to receive the restoration. We then take an digital impression of the tooth, the opposing teeth and the bite. 

A model is simulated, and from that model the inlay or onlay is made. The permanent inlay or onlay is checked for fit before the dentist cements it to the tooth. Adjustments for comfort and a final polishing are done at this visit. 

Like all dental restorations, inlays and onlays are subjected to heavy chewing pressure. We will recommend a suitable material to withstand this pressure.

Your dentist may suggest a tooth-colored material for a tooth that is visible and toward the front of the mouth. The newly filled tooth may experience some sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures for a few days or on rare occasion up to 6 weeks just like a filling can. 

Care for your new restoration is the same as that needed for healthy teeth:

  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss or use an interdental cleaner once a day.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Schedule regular dental check-ups. 
Skip to content