Inlays & Onlays

When over half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged or being restored, a dentist will often use an inlay or onlay to restore the damaged area of the tooth.

What Are Inlays & Onlays?

Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin. These tooth replacement pieces are bonded to the removed damaged area(s) of the tooth. An inlay is used inside the cusp tips of the tooth. An onlay is a more substantial reconstruction, similar to the inlay, but extending out over one or more of the cusps of the tooth.

Traditionally, gold has been the material of choice for inlays and onlays. In recent years, however, porcelain has become increasingly popular due to its strength and color that can be matched to the natural color of your teeth.

How Are They Applied?

It used to be that inlays and onlays required two appointments, and about two weeks to finish restoring the tooth. The reason for this delay was because the manufacture of the inlay/onlay required an outside lab. At our office we have the Cerec, which is advanced technology equipment that digitally scans the prepared tooth and precisely fabricates the porcelain inlay/onlay. The Cerec allows the doctor to completely restore a badly broken down tooth in one single appointment approximately two hours in duration instead of taking two appointments separated by two weeks time. The result is a finished strong, natural looking tooth colored restoration.


Traditional mercury-silver fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As an alternative, inlays and onlays are bonded directly into the tooth using special high-strength resins, and as such these porcelain restorations can actually increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent. As a result, they can last from 10 to 30 years. In the past, moderately damaged teeth required full crowns, however now, many of these teeth can be restored with natural looking onlays.