Teeth that have sustained decay don’t necessarily need fillings. You can find alternative options that look natural within the mouth and stand up over a long period of time, just like a filling. When more than half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged, a dentist will often use an inlay or onlay. Such an indirect form of restoration has several advantages over traditional fillings, and you can ask your dentist or prosthodontist whether an inlay or onlay may be right for you.

What Are Inlays and Onlays?

Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin. These pieces are bonded to the damaged area of the tooth. An inlay, which is similar to a filling, is used inside the cusp tips of the tooth. An onlay is a more substantial reconstruction, similar to the inlay but extending out over one or more of the cusps of the tooth.

Traditionally, gold has been the material of choice for inlays and onlays. In recent years, however, porcelain has become increasingly popular due to its strength and color, which can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.

How Are Inlays and Onlays Applied?

Inlays and onlays require two appointments to complete the procedure. During the first visit, the filling being replaced or the damaged or decaying area of the tooth is removed, and the tooth is prepared for the inlay or onlay. To ensure proper fit and bite, an impression of the tooth is made by the dentist, and sent to a lab for fabrication. The dentist will then apply a temporary sealant on the tooth and schedule the next appointment.

At the second appointment, the temporary sealant will be removed. Our doctors will then make sure that the inlay or onlay fits correctly. If the fit is satisfactory, the inlay or onlay will be bonded to the tooth with a strong resin and polished to a smooth finish.

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Considerations for Inlays and Onlays

Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As an alternative, inlays and onlays, which are bonded directly onto the tooth using special high-strength resins, can actually increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent. As a result, they can last from 10 to 30 years. In some cases, where the damage to the tooth is not extensive enough to merit an entire crown, onlays can provide a very good alternative.

Indications for Inlays and Onlays: Who Can Get Them?

Adults and older teenagers who practice good oral hygiene are the best candidates for dental inlays and onlays. People with plaque buildup or a lot of tooth decay are not good candidates. The treatment works better if other teeth around the inlay or onlay do not develop caries.

Patients who grind their teeth may not be ideal candidates for onlays and inlays, either. The pressure on the teeth can lead to fractures that break down the restorative dentistry.

Young children may lack the patience to sit through the dental procedure for applying the inlays or onlays. The process also requires taking impressions, which may test young patients’ attention spans.

Benefits of Replacing a Tooth That Has Sustained Damage

Why should you consider getting inlays or onlays instead of a filling to treat your tooth decay? The goal of the treatment is to save as much of the tooth as possible while also strengthening the area. The most critical reason to get inlays or onlays is to make the tooth stronger and more durable for the future. Other advantages of this procedure include:


  • Natural look: With the availability of porcelain inlays and onlays, the procedure won’t change the appearance of your mouth. The material will blend in with your teeth, and no one will realize you replaced part of the damaged tooth.
  • Custom design: Inlays and onlays are made to fit your teeth, allowing the prosthodontist flexibility to create the right contact points and contours.
  • Decreased sensitivity: Many patients report less sensitivity after the procedure than they experience with a filling or other type of tooth decay treatment.


Inlays and onlays last for a long time, reducing the need for future dental procedures. It’s difficult to detect them in your mouth because they look so natural. Providing proper dental care to the inlays and onlays, including daily brushing and flossing, will help them last even longer.

Where Are Tooth Inlays and Onlays Performed?

At our office in Florida, we offer inlay and onlay applications. You can enjoy a calming atmosphere while we perform the procedure.

We play soothing music, offer noise-canceling headphones, and provide hot towels. We have several specialists at our dental group, so you can often receive an expert opinion during a routine checkup to help you determine your options for fixing your damaged tooth.

Get in Touch to Discuss Your Tooth Decay Replacement Options

If you have pain from a decaying tooth, get it taken care of at one of our dental offices in Florida. Contact us today to book an appointment and ask any questions you have about tooth inlays and onlays.