What Are Dental Inlays?

A dental inlay is a custom-made piece that repairs your tooth from the inside, making it look and work like it did before it was damaged.

When part of your tooth is damaged—maybe from decay or from biting down on something hard—it might need a repair that’s more than a simple filling but less than a full cap or crown. That’s where an inlay comes in. An inlay is like a precisely cut piece of puzzle that fits exactly into the damaged area of your tooth.

Should I Consider a Dental Inlay? 

Considering a dental inlay is a decision that hinges on several factors. You may want to consider a dental inlay if you: 

  • Have moderate tooth decay or damage that is too extensive for a simple filling but not severe enough to necessitate a full crown. Inlays fill that middle ground effectively.
  • Value longevity in dental repairs. Inlays are known for their durability and can often outlast traditional fillings, making them a solid long-term investment for your dental health.
  • Prefer a more natural look. If you’re concerned about the aesthetics of your dental work, inlays are made from materials such as porcelain or composite resin, which can be closely matched to your natural tooth color for a seamless appearance.
  • Want to preserve as much of your natural tooth as possible. Inlays are a conservative treatment option that requires less removal of the tooth structure compared to crowns, thus maintaining more of your original tooth.
  • Experience a lot of wear and tear on your teeth, perhaps due to habits like grinding or clenching. The strength and resilience of inlays provide better protection against such stresses than regular fillings.
  • Are looking for a stronger, more stable tooth repair solution. The process of bonding an inlay to the tooth helps to strengthen and stabilize the remaining tooth structure, offering a robust solution to dental decay or damage.

The Process of Getting a Dental Inlay

The process of getting a dental inlay typically requires two visits to the dentist. 

During the first visit, the dentist prepares the damaged tooth by removing the decayed or damaged tissue and then takes an impression of the tooth. This impression is sent to a dental laboratory, where the inlay is precisely crafted to match the tooth’s exact shape and size. In the meantime, a temporary filling may be placed to protect the tooth. 

On the second visit, the temporary filling is removed, and the inlay is bonded to the tooth with a strong dental cement.

Materials Used in Dental Inlays

The materials commonly used for inlays include porcelain, composite resin, and gold. Each material has its advantages.

  • Porcelain inlays match the natural color of your teeth and resist staining, making them an excellent choice for those who prioritize aesthetics. 
  • Composite resin inlays, while also tooth-colored, are often more affordable and are suitable for those looking for a balance between cost and appearance. 
  • Gold inlays, though less common due to their visibility, offer unmatched durability and strength, making them an ideal choice for the molars.


What Are Dental Onlays?

A dental onlay is a custom-made armor for your tooth, protecting it from further damage and restoring its original shape and function.

When a tooth is damaged more extensively—not just in the center but possibly on the chewing surfaces or one of the raised edges (cusp) too—it needs something stronger and more comprehensive than a simple filling, yet not as invasive as a full crown. This is where an onlay steps in. Think of an onlay as a specially designed shield that not only fills in the damaged areas but also wraps over the tooth’s edges to provide extra support and protection.

Essentially, a dental onlay is a robust, tailor-made protector for your tooth, enabling it to withstand the pressures of biting and chewing, just like it did before any damage occurred.


Should I Consider a Dental Onlay? 

You should consider a dental onlay if you:

  • Need to repair extensive tooth damage that extends to one or more of the tooth’s cusps. Onlays are perfect for situations where the damage is too significant for an inlay but a full crown is not yet required.
  • Seek a durable solution for tooth restoration. Onlays are crafted from materials that are designed to endure the rigors of daily chewing and grinding, making them a long-lasting repair option.
  • Desire an aesthetically pleasing outcome. If the appearance of your repaired tooth is important to you, onlays can be made from porcelain or composite materials that blend in naturally with your existing teeth.
  • Want to conserve your tooth’s structure. Onlays require less removal of the tooth’s original structure than crowns, preserving more of your natural tooth while still providing the restoration you need.
  • Are concerned about tooth integrity. The coverage that onlays provide helps to protect and reinforce the tooth, reducing the risk of further damage or decay and potentially preventing the need for more extensive dental work in the future.
  • Look for a restoration that strengthens your tooth. Because onlays bond directly to the tooth’s surface, they add structural integrity and support to weakened teeth, helping to restore function and prevent breakage.

The Onlay Procedure

Similar to inlays, getting a dental onlay generally involves two appointments. 

The first appointment focuses on cleaning the damaged area and preparing the tooth, which includes taking an impression for the dental lab. 

During the second visit, the dentist replaces the temporary filling with the custom-made onlay, securely bonding it to the tooth. 

Onlay Materials

The materials used for onlays are the same as those for inlays: porcelain, composite resin, and gold. The choice of material is influenced by the location of the tooth, the extent of the damage, and personal preferences regarding aesthetics and budget. 

  • Porcelain onlays are often preferred for their natural appearance, making them an excellent choice for visible teeth. 
  • Composite resin offers a more affordable yet aesthetically pleasing alternative.
  • Gold remains the benchmark for durability.

Choosing the Right Dental Restoration

Both inlays and onlays serve as intermediate solutions between fillings and crowns, offering a blend of conservation and strength. The choice between an inlay, onlay, filling, or crown depends on the extent of tooth damage and the specific needs of the patient.

Dental inlays and onlays are not just about restoring a tooth’s functionality; they also play a crucial role in maintaining the tooth’s natural structure and preventing further damage or decay. By choosing a dental restoration that conserves as much of the natural tooth as possible, patients benefit from a solution that supports their overall dental health while also meeting their aesthetic needs.

Ready to restore your smile with precision and care?

At The Diablo Dental Group, we’re committed to providing you with the highest quality dental restoration services. Whether you’re considering a dental inlay or onlay to repair damaged teeth or simply seeking to enhance your smile’s natural beauty, our experienced team is here to guide you through every step of the process. 

Don’t let tooth damage hold you back any longer. Contact us today to schedule your