When A Dental Inlay Is Your Best Option

What is a dental inlay? What about a dental Onlay? And when might your dentist recommend either one of them? Fillings and cavities are part of the equation, both of which you may be more familiar with. Here’s some more information to fill in the gaps and get a better idea of what type of treatment your dentist may recommend if you have a cavity.

What Is an Inlay?

An inlay is a pre-molded filling fitted into the grooves of a tooth and does not extend over the cusps of the tooth. The patient is numbed using a local anesthetic, and the dentist drills the tooth to remove and clean out the decay in the tooth. This is one of the restorative methods used to repair a tooth after it sustains harm from injury or decay that does not affect the cusps of the tooth. The dentist takes an impression and sends it to a laboratory where the inlay is made. Inlays are manufactured from porcelain or composite resin material matching the color of the tooth and provide almost invisible dental restoration while repairing the chewing surface. Dental inlays are generally more durable than regular fillings made from composite or amalgam, and gold inlays are the most durable and the most expensive of the materials available, according to the American Dental Association.

How an Inlay Differs from an Onlay or Filling

An Onlay is a method used to repair a tooth that has more extensive damage affecting the cusp or tips of the tooth, or potentially the biting surface. The dentist will numb the patient with a local anesthetic and will drill the tooth to clean out the cavity, remove any decayed tooth material and insert a temporary dental Onlay while sending off the patient’s impression to the laboratory. A week or so later the permanent Onlay arrives, and at the next visit, the dentist removes the temporary Onlay and fits the final dental Onlay in its place.

When to Choose an Inlay

Prevention is key, which helps replenish natural calcium and fights cavities. If you sustain damage in spite of good oral hygiene, a dental inlay might be the way to go. Also, your dentist is likely to recommend an inlay instead of a regular filling if the damage to the biting surface matches these criteria:

  • Broken, fractured or decayed teeth where it does not affect the cusp of the tooth.
  • It is extensive enough to require a large dental filling that may weaken the remaining structure.
  • The level of injury does not allow for the removal of enough tooth material to support mounting a crown.

Inlays, Onlays, and fillings all restore your smile while preventing further decay. Your dentist will be able to advise which is the best option for you.


We love our patients and love to help them form healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. For more information call us today to answer all of your questions so get an appointment today.

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