How are Inlay and Onlay Procedures Done

Dental inlays and onlays are commonly used to help restore and protect teeth that have been subjected to some damage, but not enough to require the use of a crown. This method helps to save and maintain more of the tooth that is still healthy. If the more of the tooth can be saved, it means better overall oral health, maintenance of the gums and underlying bone, and better natural tooth function.

Understanding Inlays and Onlays

Dental inlays are designed to be placed in the center of the tooth, while an onlay is placed inside and outside of the tooth. Onlays are also sometimes referred to as partial crowns or indirect fillings. However, onlays are typically less destructive to the tooth and cost less than traditional crowns, two benefits that patients don’t typically want to pass up.

While inlays and onlays are both considered safe dental practices, there can be complications. You should discuss these with your dentist.

Dental Inlay and Onlay Materials

There are three traditional materials that dental inlays and onlays are made of.

Composites – Composites can be comprised of several different materials, but often include powdered glass-like material, acrylics, or resins. This material is typically used when the inlay or onlay will be visible. Composites offer a durable surface that also matches the color of your natural teeth. This helps to disguise them so other people would never know that you had dental work.

Metal – Metal inlays and onlays are typically made from gold, but other metals can also be used. Metal is typically used in areas that aren’t seen when you smile. This material also offers additional durability for forceful chewing, so it is well-suited for the molars and premolars.

Porcelain – Porcelain is used primarily for its ability to match your natural tooth color, resist stains, and the appearance and feel of natural teeth. For this reason, porcelain is typically used in areas that are most visible.

Conducting the Procedure

Now that you understand about the rationale behind inlays and onlays, we can delve into how they are actually placed. While the procedures can vary based on the material used, whether you are receiving an inlay or onlay, and the location in the mouth, there are still some basic practices.

Your dentist will likely give you a local anesthetic for the gums surrounding the area of the procedure. You may also receive a topical anesthetic to help numb the area before you receive an injection into the gums.

After the anesthetic has been placed and you can no longer feel any sensation in that area, your dentist will remove the damaged portion of the tooth and prepare the surface for an inlay or onlay. Once the area is prepared, your dentist will create a mold of the tooth so that they can create the perfect inlay or onlay for you.

If your dentist has the proper equipment in their office, they can often complete the procedure the same day. If they don’t, the mold of your tooth will be sent to a lab where your product can be created. If your dentist needs to utilize a lab, they will put a temporary structure in place to protect your teeth, and you will return in a few weeks to have the final inlay or onlay placed.

After the inlay or onlay has been placed, your dentist will check the fit and make sure to adjust or file down any parts in order to have the perfect smile and bite.


Inlays and onlays are very similar in their use and the procedure that dentists use. If you have damage to your teeth, schedule an appointment today. The sooner that you see a dentist, the more likely you are to avoid extensive dental work. You may be an ideal candidate for an inlay or onlay today. Give Top Dental Clinic Today's Family Dentist a call today! We look forward to hearing from you.