Inlays and Onlays
Cosmetic Dentistry Procedure Alternatives

Dental Inlays

Dental inlays and dental onlays are quickly becoming a popular cosmetic dentistry procedure. Learn more about this dental procedure and view a 2 minute news video below featuring the latest advances in dental onlays and CEREC crowns being done in only one hour!

Both of these procedures can be thought of as dental procedures that are midway between a dental filling and a dental crown. They are normally used when there is not enough tooth structure to support a filling, yet there is also not enough damage to support a dental crown.


Similar to dental fillings, they lie within the cusps on the chewing surfaces of teeth. Dental onlays are more extensive than an inlays, and tend to cover multiple cusp areas. Both can be composed of gold, resin or ceramic and can last for many years, but this is often dependent upon the material used, the teeth involved, the forces of chewing and the maintenance of a good oral hygiene program.

The procedure used to process them may either consist of a direct or indirect procedure. A direct procedure usually involves one dental visit, and the appliance is made by the dentist. An indirect procedure, on the other hand, involves the use of a dental laboratory.

If the process involves a direct procedure, the patient is given anesthesia and the tooth is "preped" (prepared). Preparation involves removing decay and shaping the tooth. A soft material composite is then molded to the tooth structure, then removed and hardened in a special oven for processing. After it has been processed, it is then cemented or bonded to the tooth. There may be the need for a slight adjustment to adjust the patient's bite.

Porcelain Inlay
If the process involves an indirect technique, again the anesthesia and prepping processes will occur. But instead of proceeding to the composite process, as used in the direct technique, the indirect technique requires that an impression of the preped tooth, as well as the neighboring teeth be taken. The impression is sent to the dental laboratory for processing. After the item is returned from the dental laboratory, similar to that of a direct procedure, it will be cemented or bonded to the tooth.

Dental Inlays and onlays can become loose if the cement washes out or if it is contaminated with saliva while being applied to the tooth. They have also been known to crack. If you experience any of these problems, or if sensitivity occurs after you have had the procedure performed, contact your dental provider for immediate assistance.


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