Inlays & Onlays

Dental Inlays

Porcelain inlays and onlays can help to restore teeth damaged by decay

What are inlays and onlays?

These are types of fillings that are not directly applied on the teeth but are instead prepared by a dental laboratory and then cemented to the tooth in the surgery. Inlays and onlays are recommended for larger cavities or when there is insufficient tooth structure to support an amalgam or composite filling, but the tooth is not severely damaged enough to need a crown.

What is the difference between an inlay and an onlay?

An inlay sits in a hole in the tooth where as an onlay sits on top of the tooth and builds up its shape. Inlays and onlays can be made in tooth coloured porcelain, gold or a white filling material called composite.

Will they be noticeable?

Your dentist will colour the porcelain so that it matches your natural tooth colour. Porcelain however does not discolour like your natural teeth, so you will need to keep up with good oral hygiene to ensure your teeth and the inlay or onlay continue to match. There is also no visible seam where the onlay or inlay meets your natural tooth surface, so with proper care, inlays and onlays should provide a completely invisible repair. 

How are inlays and onlays applied?

Inlays and onlays require 2 appointments. On the first appointment the dentist will need to remove any old filling material or decay or damaged tooth and then take an impression of the tooth which will be sent off to the dental laboratory to build either an inlay or onlay. A temporary filling will be used protect the tooth until your next appointment. On your second appointment the temporary filling will be removed and either an inlay or onlay will be glued in place. Small adjustments will be made by the dentist so that the tooth is comfortable to bite on.

Benefits of inlays and onlays

  • Preserve your tooth – Inlays and onlays require less tooth preparation than a crown, ensuring that you can keep as much healthy tooth as possible.
  • Strengthen and protect your tooth – Inlays and onlays are most commonly crafted from porcelain and this can help to strengthen a tooth by up to 75 percent compared to a composite filling and last up to 20 to 30 years with proper care.
  • Natural looking results – Inlays and onlays can be shade-matched to blend seamlessly with neighbouring teeth. Porcelain beautifully mimics the sheen of natural enamel and is also stain resistant, so you can be confident that your restoration will remain bright and vibrant over time.
  • Cost effective – While inlays and onlays are more expensive than fillings, their longevity provide a worthwhile investment. In addition, addressing dental decay or damage early can protect your long-term oral health and the integrity of your smile.

Easy care – Daily at-home care for inlays and onlays is no different than that of healthy, natural teeth. You should brush and floss daily and visit the dentist for routine appointments to ensure your restoration is strong and secure. Should your inlay or onlay become loose, painful, crack, or fall out completely, contact your dentist as soon as possible to schedule a visit.