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Inlays and Onlays


Following the loss of natural tooth structure, there are multiple treatments that our doctors can use to restore strength and structure to your smile. Inlays and onlays are customizable pre-formed fillings that allow you to bite with confidence following cavity treatment or another situation that leaves a tooth compromised.


Inlays are smaller than onlays and fit within an excavated space on the surface of a tooth (typically a molar). Onlays (sometimes called partial crowns) are larger and replace a significant portion of the chewing surface of a molar, which could mean one or more cusps. The use of an inlay over an onlay will depend on the extent and location of your lost tooth structure.

Are you a candidate?

Inlays and onlays are used when the damage to your tooth is too extensive for fillings to restore but a crown is not needed. The pre-formed fillings are often used following cavity treatment, root canal therapy, or after a tooth is damaged due to trauma. As with any type of filling, inlays and onlays require that the surrounding tooth structure is strong and in good health. Candidates for this type of restoration should be willing to maintain and care for their restorations.

Benefits of Pre-formed Fillings

Inlays and onlays are stronger and more durable than dental fillings. Pre-formed fillings also last much longer than fillings. While fillings must be replaced every few to several years, an inlay or onlay can last for 20 years or longer when properly maintained through good oral hygiene habits and regular dental visits. The procedure to place a pre-formed filling is less invasive than dental crowns. While crowns require the removal of the outer layer of a tooth, inlays and onlays require the removal of far less tooth structure. Preserving natural tooth structure is always preferable when possible. Inlays and onlays can be fabricated from a variety of materials. In some cases, molars may benefit from gold fillings that are incredibly durable. Ceramic and resin filings offer unique qualities, including the ability to mimic the natural color and luster of enamel.

The Inlay and Onlay Fabrication Process

Inlays and onlays are custom-made to meet your oral health needs and cosmetic goals. Both pre-formed fillings require two dental visits. During the first appointment, your restorative treatment will be completed, and your tooth will be thoroughly cleaned. If you are receiving a composite or resin filling, the exact shade of your tooth will be measured. Our office uses digital impressions that are mess-free. Once the impressions have been made, you will be given a temporary filling. During your second visit, your custom inlay or onlay will be cemented in place. There is no recovery time associated with this procedure. Patients may experience temporary sensitivity in the days or weeks following the placement of their new inlay or onlay.

Maintaining Your Inlay or Onlay

As with any restoration, you should treat your inlay or onlay like any part of your natural tooth. Take care not to bite objects or foods that could damage the pre-formed filling. To protect the surrounding tooth structure, practice good oral hygiene habits and schedule regular dental cleanings and checkups. Pre-formed fillings are incredibly durable. Gold inlays, for example, can last for 20 to 30 years. At some point, the restoration will need to be replaced. If your inlay or onlay feels “off,” let one our doctors know.

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