Inlays, Onlays, & Tooth Colored Restorations

Sometimes teeth can become significantly damaged, either through decay, trauma or misfortune. Thankfully, the world of cosmetic dentistry offers a variety of different treatment options for patients that are in need of dental repair or restoration.

Porcelain inlays and porcelain onlays are custom made, indirect fillings used to restore a damaged tooth. They are a conservative, attractive alternative to crowns in many situations, and can provide a durable and long-lasting choice to help beautify your smile.

When a portion of the crucial biting surface of a tooth is damaged, an inlay or onlay can provide a cosmetically attractive solution to the problem. So what are inlays and onlays, and how are they best employed and used as tooth colored restorations?

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Porcelain Inlay vs. Porcelain Onlay – What is the difference?

In general, the amount of damage and area of the tooth that needs to be repaired will determine whether your dentist will consider using an inlay or an onlay. Inlays are suitable for use only within the tooth cusp itself. Onlays can be used for larger areas of damage or decay. If a tooth is too badly damaged to be repaired with a porcelain onlay, a full crown or other restoration procedure must be considered.


These cosmetic dentistry restorations are constructed of either porcelain or a long-lasting metal such as gold; composite resin can also be employed but is generally less durable. They are used when the damaged area lies within the cusp tip section of a particular tooth.


Onlays are an option for tooth colored restorations when the damaged area is larger and extends out beyond the cusps of the damaged tooth. Similar to Inlays, Onlays are constructed of either gold, porcelain, or a composite resin depending on your dental health needs.

Benefits of Porcelain Inlays and Onlays

The best tooth colored restorations will always employ porcelain as it is the only material which can be closely matched to the natural color of your teeth.

There are a number of reasons that porcelain provides a superior material for restorations when compared to metal. Metal restorations are literally packed inside empty space within a tooth, whereas porcelain restorations are “bonded” to the surface of your natural tooth. Metal fillings are sensitive to temperature and can expand and contract, possibly cracking a tooth over time. Porcelain inlay and onlay restoration do not exhibit this behavior. Porcelain restoration provide the best aesthetic solution and generally offer the most natural looking results when compared to the appearance of your natural teeth.

Inlay and Onlay Restoration Procedure

Typically, you will need to visit the dentist’s office twice to fully complete a restoration involving either a porcelain inlay or onlay.

During your initial visit, the dentist will examine the damaged tooth, and remove any decay, filling material or remaining tooth that may need to be replaced.

After fully cleaning and preparing the tooth, the dentist will then make an impression, which is then sent to a dental lab where your porcelain inlay or onlay will be fabricated. To keep the tooth safe while your are waiting for the restoration to be made, a temporary sealant may be applied to the affected tooth.

Once the custom-made restoration arrives, your dentist will ensure that the fit of the inlay or onlay is correct and then permanently bond it to the surface of your natural tooth using a special dental bonding agent. After bonding is complete, the implant is polished and smoothed, leaving you with a beautiful looking smile.

Inlays, onlays, and other tooth colored restorations are excellent cosmetic dentistry procedures which can really help preserve teeth that have been weakened through damage, age or other dental work. Replacing fillings with porcelain inlay or onlay restorations can increase the strength of teeth by nearly 75%, and they can often last up to 30 years.

Call 1-847-DENTIST Today!

For more information about porcelain inlays and onlays and to see what cosmetic dentistry treatment options may be best for you, contact Den-Care Smile Center today.

Affordable Dental Services

Den-Care Smile Center believes everyone deserves a beautiful, healthy smile. We understand that affordability is a very important consideration and that’s why we strive to keep our fees as low as possible while preserving the quality service you expect.

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