Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for promoting overall health and well-being. If your teeth are too damaged for fillings, your dentist can recommend inlays or onlays as a suitable treatment option. Inlay and onlay restorations use composite, gold, or porcelain materials to treat decayed or damaged teeth. Dental inlays and onlays are often used when full restoration with dental crowns is too severe for the teeth.

Inlays and onlays also give you a natural look while restoring your teeth' function. The results of a dental procedure can affect your appearance and general health. Therefore, you should seek a qualified dentist for inlays and onlays fixing. South Coast Dentistry offers dental care services to patients who want inlays and onlays fixed in Aliso Viejo, CA.

An Overview of Dental Inlays and Onlays

Tooth decay and damage can occur from time to time. Decaying teeth can lead to gum disease, foul breath, and a ruined smile. In most cases, the dental treatment for such conditions focuses on maintaining the integrity of the teeth. There are various options for treating tooth decay.

Dental inlays and onlays are made of composite, porcelain, or gold and help to restore damaged or moderately decayed teeth. Your dentist would often use this type of restorative care if the teeth are severely damaged for filling but are not damaged enough to necessitate dental crowns. Dental inlays and onlays help to protect and strengthen the healthy parts of the teeth.

An inlay entails filling the cavity with porcelain or another material at the top of the decaying tooth. Porcelain does not change color and thus blends in well with dental enamel. A dentist will recommend a dental inlay if the teeth deteriorate in the center.

Dental onlays, on the other hand, work differently because the materials are placed directly on the affected teeth. Depending on how severe the decay is, a dental onlay can cover the whole chewing surface of the teeth. If your tooth is damaged on its chewing surface, a dental onlay could be a viable option.

Materials Used for Dental Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays can be made of numerous materials, such as gold, composite, and ceramic. Below is a detailed description of the various types of material:


Inlays and onlays made of gold were popular in the past. Gold is a highly durable material that can protect teeth from decay and injury. However, it is less commonly used as a dental restoration method due to the availability of materials that match teeth' color. If a filling is frequently damaged, your dentist may suggest a gold inlay or onlay as an alternative. Porcelain is prone to damage, even though it has a pleasing appearance.

Gold inlays or onlays are more robust and unlikely to break over time. The American Dental Association reports that gold inlays and onlays have an average lifespan of 18 to 20 years, with some lasting more than 40 years.

The material is also stain-resistant and suitable for mouth use where aesthetics is not essential. One disadvantage of using gold as a restoration method is that it does not blend well with the natural teeth and can be expensive.


Ceramic inlays and onlays are made of porcelain material. Dentists commonly use porcelain because it mimics natural teeth. The material used easily replicates the shine and color of a natural tooth. Some of the benefits of using porcelain are:

  • It is Robust and Long-Lasting

Porcelain's strength helps support your tooth's health while functioning regularly. Furthermore, porcelain inlays and onlays can last up to 30 years. It saves you the cost of frequent replacements.

  • Blends Well With Natural Teeth

Restorative dentistry techniques aim to restore smiles while preserving their natural beauty. Since porcelain material can be custom-made to match the color of the teeth, it offers the required natural appearance.

  • They are Less Likely To Fracture Than Amalgam Dental Fillings

Unlike fillings, porcelain does not expand or contract due to temperature changes.

Composite Resin

Instead of using porcelain or gold for inlays or onlays, your dentist could use composite resin. The material is more durable and less likely to fracture or cause damage than typical amalgam fillings. Composite resin has an appealing tint that blends in well with natural teeth. They are less durable than gold and porcelain and are prone to discoloration.

If a dentist concludes that you need an inlay or onlay for a damaged or decayed tooth, they will advise you on the materials that best meet your needs and fit your budget.

Procedure For Dental Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays are appealing for treating tooth damage and decay. In the past, metal dental fillings were used to fix cracks and cavities in the teeth. They were not durable and aesthetically unappealing.

Restorative methods, such as inlays and onlays, use solid and tooth-like components to restore the teeth's appearance and function. They are designed to match the exact size and shape of the tooth cavity, guaranteeing a perfect fit and lasting results.

The steps involved in placing inlays and onlays are as follows:

Removing Cavity Filling

In most situations, inlays and onlays repair damaged or broken cavity fillings. The dentist can remove any previous dental installations during the initial visit. In addition, any damaged tissues are removed, which leaves some teeth with hollow spaces. After that, the dental professional will shape the teeth to make placing an onlay or inlay easier.

Teeth Impressions

Since onlays and inlays are made specifically to meet a patient's needs, a dentist can shape the pre-existing cavity in the tooth. This mold determines the material used for the dental inlay or onlay. If you choose a ceramic material, select the color and design of the restoration you want.

Installation of Temporary Dental Filling

The dentist can apply a temporary dental filling to hide the cavities while preparing the inlays or onlays. These fillings could help prevent food particles from entering and causing further dental decay.

Placement of Dental Inlays and Onlays

Once your restoration model is completed, you can schedule another appointment to place the inlays or onlays. Your dentist can administer local anesthesia during this session to improve comfort and lessen pain. They then remove the temporary dental filling and cement the dental inlay or onlay into the decaying teeth. After placement, the dentist will grind down and polish the surface of the teeth to make biting more pleasant.

Tooth restoration using an inlay and onlay is a relatively safe treatment. However, as with other dental operations, the following issues could arise:

  • Allergic reactions as a result of anesthesia.
  • Expansion or contraction of composite inlays or onlays could lead to additional tooth injury.
  • During the process, the gums and teeth could sustain injuries.
  • Loss of dental inlays or onlays, causing further deterioration.

Situations in Which Dental Inlays and Onlays Are Not Recommended

Even though dental inlays and onlays provide numerous benefits over other dental implants, they are not appropriate for all dental issues. Some of these cases include:

When There Is No Guarantee Of Proper Oral Hygiene

Plaques and active caries pose the most severe risks to dental onlays and inlays. As a result, anyone thinking about having inlays or onlays should practice good dental hygiene. Maintaining good dental health is crucial even before the dental work is done.

Failure to control these caries risks the patient's health and can lead to a recurrence. This means that a patient is more likely to develop new caries even after having dental restorations. The restoration will not change the risk if the damaged teeth are already vulnerable to developing new caries. New dangers will emerge around the dental inlays and onlays, rendering the restoration ineffective.

When a Patient Exhibits Parafunctional Behaviors

Inlays and onlays are inappropriate for anyone with parafunctional habits like grinding or clenching their teeth or for anyone who exerts a massive force on their dental restorations. Parafunctional habits refer to the unusual operation of the oral cavity and its associated muscles.

These habits can cause substantial deterioration even on well-designed and installed inlay or onlay restorations. Porcelain inlays and onlays are the main targets of these habits, along with significant occlusal pressures. Staying away from parafunctional behaviors and such forces is crucial if you need long-lasting, quality restorations.

Patients Younger Than 16 Years Old

Dentists often recommend specific dental treatments for minors aged 16 and below. First and foremost, several teeth in a 16-year-old minor are rarely fully developed. This type of restoration method can affect how the teeth develop afterward.

Again, minors are often unable to handle specific invasive oral procedures. They are also unable to tolerate lengthy treatments. It is best to wait until the appropriate time for the minor to receive an indirect dental restoration.

Patients Who Cannot Bear an Oral Impression

Dental impressions refer to negative imprints left on the hard and soft tissues of the mouth that can be used to make positive reproductions. Dental imprints are required during indirect dental implants to ensure the new restoration aligns with the patient's bite. However, some patients cannot withstand traditional impressions.

Fortunately, digital imprint systems are now available, like Lava Chairside, allowing such patients to undergo the essential treatment without pain. The challenge is that most digital imprint solutions are not widely available in dental care clinics today.

Benefits of Dental Inlays and Onlays

Onlays and inlays can help restore broken teeth or those affected by decay. They are most effective when performed to prevent decay. However, if the problem has already occurred, immediate dental treatment is required to treat it and prevent further deterioration.

Dental inlays and onlays are more comprehensive than dental fillings and require less tooth material than crowns. Using quality materials and advanced technology, dental inlays and onlays provide several advantages, such as:

Conservative Restoration

Both onlays and inlays are usually conservative, allowing a dentist to keep more of the natural tooth. Compared to dental crowns, inlays and onlays require a dentist to remove the damaged portion of the tooth before installing the dental restoration. Dental crowns, on the other hand, require the removal of a significant portion of a tooth to accommodate it.

Gives a Natural Appearance and Improved Speech

The main objective of several restorative dental treatments is to achieve natural-looking results. Inlays and onlays are used to replace the amalgam fillings. Porcelain can be shade-matched to match natural teeth and mimic their gloss. Porcelain is also stain-resistant, ensuring you enjoy a beautiful and lasting smile.

According to the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) report, many people's speech quality improved after receiving inlay and onlay implants after a four-month adaptation period.

Enhanced Durability and Strength

Dental fillings are made from either composite resin or amalgam. On the other hand, more durable substances like gold and ceramic are used to make onlays and inlays. This long-lasting material can help to strengthen teeth for a maximum of thirty years. Furthermore, the substances used for inlays and onlays preserve the healthy parts of the teeth, preventing damage.


In most cases, dental insurance will cover inlays and onlays fully or partially. You can also use your health savings account to pay additional expenses. Inlays and onlays cost more than amalgam dental fillings. However, their durability makes the financial investment worthwhile. Dental inlays or onlays can also help prevent oral decay in its early stages, safeguarding the structural integrity of your teeth and gums.

CAD Procedure in a Single Visit

CAD technology allows dentists to take impressions, design, and make inlays or onlays in one visit. This technology makes use of powerful computer software as well as a 3-D scanner. Having an inlay or onlay fixed in one visit allows you to spend less time at the clinic. Since inlays and onlays don't require healing time, you can leave the dentist's clinic with the teeth functioning normally again.

Better Margin and Lower Cost

The most basic type of dental filling is amalgam, which contracts and expands due to temperature changes. It can weaken and fracture teeth. Small gaps in the enamel can hold bacteria and food residues, resulting in recurred decay. Porcelain inlays and onlays do not change their size or shape when temperatures change. As a result, their sturdy structure offers a long-lasting solution for tooth decay.

Easy to Maintain

Inlays and onlays require the same level of care as natural teeth. Following your last dental checkup, you can protect your teeth from decay by using fluoride toothpaste and drinking water that has been fluoridated. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposes optimal fluoride levels of 0.7 milligrams per liter for community water systems.

It would also be ideal to have at least two visits to the dentist every year to ensure the security of your restoration. If your dental inlay or onlay falls out or becomes loose, you should seek emergency treatment.

Aftercare for Dental Inlays and Onlays

Dental restoration with inlays and onlays usually takes a couple of days. However, the teeth can still be susceptible to plaque or bacterial buildup. Therefore, you should know how to care for the teeth after the procedure.

Your dentist could propose the following methods to help lower the risk of oral illnesses:

  • Maintaining Proper Dental Hygiene

Inlays usually extend into the gaps between the teeth. These spots could be challenging to clean, and food particles that gather in these gaps can lead to further tooth decay. Therefore, daily flossing and teeth brushing can help keep the dental inlays strong.

  • Keep Track of Your Diet

Dental decay usually occurs from the buildup of starch and sugar in the teeth. Sugary diets encourage the growth of microorganisms that cause enamel deterioration. Following an onlay and inlay operation, your dentist can advise avoiding highly acidic or sugary foods.

  • Dental Checks Regularly

Fitting dental inlays and onlays does not mark the end of regular dental appointments. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 91 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have experienced at least one cavity in their lifetime. It is important to schedule frequent dental visits. During your sessions, the dentist will check the restored teeth for fractures, damage, or disease.

Frequently Asked Questions About Inlays and Onlays

Having inlays or onlays surgery can be stressful. Patients are often scared of what will happen next. This is because the results of dental operations can significantly affect your overall health and well-being.

Some of the commonly asked questions about dental inlays and onlays include the following:

Can Insurance Companies Cover Dental Inlays and Onlays?

Yes, they can. Several insurance policies can cover inlays or onlays. Cosmetic operations are often not covered by insurance providers. However, inlays and onlays are an exception. The procedure mainly serves to restore decaying or damaged teeth. Before undergoing the operation, you should consult your insurance company to ensure you are fully covered.

Is a Dental Veneer Classified As An Onlay?

No. A dental onlay can help fill cavities or cracks in the tooth, protecting them from further damage and strengthening the dental structure. Veneers are simply cosmetic procedures fitted on the front side of the teeth where they can be seen when smiling. Dental veneers can be used to address tooth discoloration. However, the two techniques are similar because they are made of porcelain material and offer a lasting solution.

Find a Dental Clinic Near Me

Dental onlays and inlays can be effective dental restoration procedures for damaged teeth. However, the results of the procedure depend on the dentist you choose. To guarantee the best possible outcome, your dentist should be well-versed in restorative dental operations. If you need a competent dentist to examine your oral health and conduct an inlay and onlay restorative procedure in Aliso Viejo, call us, the South Coast Dentistry, at 949-274-9086.