Inlays and Onlays

Sometimes, teeth are so badly damaged that they can’t be treated by conventional fillings, yet they’re not badly damaged enough to require a crown. When that happens, an inlay or an onlay may be an option.

So, what exactly are inlays and onlays? They’re what’s called “indirect” fillings. They fit just on or within the points, or cusps, of the teeth. A “direct” filling, on the other hand, goes right into the cavity.

How Does It Work?

You’ve probably heard of crowns. An inlay or an onlay is a lot like a crown, but it won’t require quite as much removal of your original tooth. With a crown, the whole tooth has to be reshaped. With an inlay or an onlay, more of your natural tooth structure is preserved. Simply stated, it’s less invasive.

When you get an inlay or an onlay, the first course of action is to numb the tooth using a local anesthetic. Then the decay is drilled out. Decay is actually a type of infection, so we take it out in order to make sure that it doesn’t go further into the tooth.

What Happens Next?

Then, we take an impression of your tooth. We do that either digitally or using a type of putty that we apply to your gums (yes, it is nasty!). Then we send it off to a dental lab, where they use the impression to create a model of your tooth. When we get it back, we do the final restoration.

Can I Go Now?

No. No, you can’t. Before you leave our office, we want to attach a temporary filling so that your tooth is protected until we receive your permanent restoration. Then we want you to come back for a second visit, at which time we’ll attach your permanent inlay or overlay to your tooth.


Yes. You can go now. Once we’ve attached your permanent restoration, you’re good to go. You’ll have a permanent inlay or onlay that will have been hardened to your existing tooth, using a hardening resin. You can now go in peace, with a perfect smile.

Inlays and onlays are strong, long-lasting, and require no greater level of care than any other tooth. Conscientious daily brushing and flossing, and regular professional cleanings here at the dental office is really all you need to make sure your restoration lasts for years to come.

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