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What are Inlays and Onlays?

What are Inlays and Onlays?

9 January 2019 by Breeze Dental

Decayed or badly chipped teeth not only affect your self-image but can negatively impact your life and health of your teeth.

However, dental inlays and onlays might be the key to fixing these problems. That’s why we’ve created this guide to dental inlays and onlays, so you can know exactly what they are and how they can help you achieve your perfect smile.

What are inlays and onlays?

Also known as ‘indirect fillings’, dental inlays and onlays are a way to restore teeth that are too badly decayed or chipped for fillings.

They are a durable, strong and natural looking solution that is more conservative and easier to fit than a crown and are most commonly used for the back teeth of your mouth.

Unlike fillings, inlays and onlays strengthen the tooth structure instead of weakening it. They are specifically made to fit exactly into your tooth cavity and are bonded into place, making them strong and hard wearing. After the procedure, the tooth can bear 50-75% more chewing force than before.

Inlays are bonded within the centre of the tooth, within the cusps (the raised points on your teeth) or rounded edges of your tooth.

Onlays are like inlays, but they are used when the damage to your teeth cover one or more than one cusps and cover the entire chewing surface of your tooth.

If cared for properly, dental inlays and onlays can last up to 30 years.

If the damage to your tooth is extensive, dental crowns may be a better option for your teeth. However, as crowns require a large amount of tooth structure to be removed, dental inlays and onlays are a much preferred and less damaging procedure as only a minimal amount of the tooth is removed.


What is the procedure?

Dental inlays and onlays are fitted following the same, simple procedure.


  1. Removal of tooth decay

During the first appointment, your dentist will remove any tooth decay from the teeth. Once this is complete, they will take an impression of the tooth’s structure that will be sent to the laboratory. While you wait for your inlay or onlay to be made, you will be given a temporary filling to wear and protect your teeth.


  1. The dental inlay or onlay is made

At the laboratory, your dental inlays or onlays will be made to exactly fit your tooth. The inlays or onlays can be made from either porcelain or gold and can be coloured to closely match and blend naturally into your teeth.


  1. The inlay or onlay is fitted

Once the dental inlay or onlay is made, your dentist will fit and bond it to your tooth. Happy with the results, you can then live your life as normal and enjoy your perfect smile.



Dental inlays and onlays are the perfect solutions to teeth that are too decayed or damaged for fillings, while also restoring the tooth to full strength. Ultimately your dentist will be able to discuss whether dental inlays or onlays are right for you, based on your own unique needs and requirements.


Photo by Jamakassi on Unsplash