Dental inlays and Onlays are restorations ideal for people who need to repair teeth with mild to moderate damage from decay. Usually, dentists recommend them when the damage is too big for a dental filling and too small for a dental crown.

What are Dental Inlays and Onlays?

Here is a brief explanation of inlays and onlays:

Dental Inlays

If the damage lies within the indented top surface of the tooth, between the cusps of teeth, then the dentist is most likely to use a dental inlay for your treatment.

Dental Onlays

If the damage to the tooth extends to one or more of the cusps, then the dentist will use the treatment of dental onlays.

Dental inlays and Onlays are set in a similar manner. The dentist takes an impression of the tooth under treatment and places a temporary inlay or onlay for the time being. The dental lab creates the inlay or onlay as per the provided measurements, which are then placed by the dentist during the patient’s second visit. There is almost no downtime with these treatments. You may experience some tenderness in the area treated but you can resume your normal routine as soon as you leave the dentist’s office.

Materials Used For Treatment

On average, dentists use gold, composite, or ceramic for making dental inlays and onlays. Of course, the choice of the material can vary depending on what the patient requires, budget, and particular oral need for the extent of the damage present.


This material is no longer as popular as it was in the past. However, it is ideal for weakened cusps due to trauma and cavities. The material is not as aesthetic as composite and ceramic materials but is more durable than both.

Additionally, it is also quite resistant to stains. However, it is the more expensive option. 

Composite Resin

If your cavity is too large for a traditional filling, then composite resin material is ideal for making your inlay or onlay. It has more strength than traditional fillings and can easily match the color of your natural teeth.

On the other hand, it is not resistant to stains and is weaker than gold.

Ceramic or Porcelain

In cosmetic dentistry, porcelain is considered ideal for creating restorations that match the natural color of teeth, along with their natural shape and function. The material is strong and durable — less likely to fracture as compared to traditional fillings. It is also resistant to stain.

Meanwhile, it remains weaker than gold, and despite its strength, the material is rigid and comes with an increased risk of fracture.

If your dentist suggests you get dental inlays and onlays to repair the damage to your teeth, they will explain the advantages and limitations of each material option available to you. Depending on your circumstances, they will provide you with a professional opinion on which material will be most suitable.

Dental Care in Chula Vista

Dr. Nick Addario is a Chula Vista dentist — offering a wide range of cosmetic dentistry procedures, including dental inlays and onlays. To book your appointment, call or visit us.