What are inlays and onlays?

Inlays and onlays are used to fill in cavities after complete removal of dental decay. In some cases, fillings don’t cover up enough of the damage done to the tooth, and crowns provide too much restorative protection for the issue at hand. Inlays and onlays can fill in unique gaps to restore the tooth to its natural health and function. 

Made of tooth-colored materials, like composite resin or porcelain, inlays and onlays blend seamlessly between the natural tooth and the dental restoration. 

Both inlays and onlays offer a more substantial alternative to fillings and a less intrusive approach than crowns for a unique restorative option that’s specifically tailored to your smile. Schedule an appointment at Smileform Dentistry by Calling Today or stop by the office located at 4753 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square PA, 19073.


Inlays and onlays preserve as much of your natural tooth as possible, making it easier to brush and floss with care.

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How it works: The inlay and onlay treatment process

Comprehensive Consultation

At the first visit, your dentist will take a look at your teeth to see if a dental inlay or onlay restoration is the best fit for your unique dental issue. Your dentist will be sure to walk you through each step of your treatment process to ensure you understand expectations and results.

custom preparation

Next, your dentist will prepare your tooth for treatment by removing the damaged or decayed areas and thoroughly cleaning the tooth. At this time, the tooth is scanned and coloring of the restoration is determined and to create your custom inlay or onlay.

Inlay or Onlay Placement

Once your inlay or onlay is completed, your dentist will permanently place the finished inlay or onlay onto your tooth.

Benefits of inlays and onlays


One of the main benefits of inlays and onlays is their long-lasting strength and durability. Made of resilient composite resin or porcelain, inlays and onlays are able to resist years of chewing and natural use.When treated with proper care, these restorations can last well over a decade.

Regular follow-up visits can allow your dentist to check on the stability and health of the inlays or onlays and ensure they are firmly in place. To elongate the lifespan of your inlay or onlay, avoid hard, sticky foods that could crack the material or cause the bonds to loosen over time.

Preserves the Tooth

Inlays and onlays are a conservative restorative treatment which preserves most of your original tooth structure. The placement requires less of the natural tooth to be removed, which allows you to still have a portion of the healthy tooth within your smile.

Restores Strength

Inlays and onlays are secured directly onto the tooth, which provides reinforced strength and structure. You’ll be able to enjoy your favorite foods with ease knowing your tooth is healthy and functional.

Improves Appearance 

Your dentist will find the exact shade of your smile to ensure yourinlay or onlay will match the original tooth and blend seamlessly into the surrounding teeth. The restoration process is meant to be virtually unnoticeable after treatment, so you enjoy a natural, pleasing grin.


Some fillings may shrink with time. The extreme durability of inlays and onlays prevent them from shrinking at all.

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Have questions about inlays and onlays? Find answers here.

What is the difference between an inlay and an onlay?

Aside from a few key differences, inlays and onlays are very similar restorative treatments. Used to fix smaller areas of decay, inlays are specifically applied when damage is isolated within the cusps of the teeth. An onlay is used to fill in marginally larger areas of decay within the tooth, including the cusps. Inlays and onlays work similarly to crowns, but preserve more of the original tooth instead of covering it entirely. Both inlays and onlays are used to restore damaged teeth, but treat different areas of the tooth to ensure proper protection.

What issues can inlays and onlays treat?

Both inlays and onlays can be used to treat teeth with damage and decay, such as new cavities or old metal fillings. Inlays and onlays are most often applied to the rear molars and teeth that need a durable restorative option for significant chewing power. If a compromised tooth does not require as much drilling as a dental crown but more than a regular filling, an inlay and or onlay is a good solution for conserving healthy tooth structure.

How do I know if I need inlays or onlays?

If your tooth is too damaged to be fixed by a traditional filling, but doesn’t have enough decay to warrant a full crown, inlays and onlays could be the right restorative treatment for you. If your tooth’s cusps are free from damage and decay, your dentist may recommend an inlay. An onlay may be administered if the tooth has suffered trauma to the cusp and the tip of the tooth. As durable, seamless, and long-lasting solutions to teeth decay, inlays and onlays can bring back your tooth’s full function and health for years to come.

How long do inlays and onlays last?

When properly cared for, patients can expect inlays and onlays to lastanywhere between 5 and 30 years. The longevity of your inlay or onlay is dependent on a variety of factors. Some patients grind their teeth subconsciously at night, causing more wear and tear to the restoration. Failing to brush, floss, and follow up with regular dental appointments can contribute to a decline in your inlay or onlay durability.

How do I care for my inlay or onlay?

Abiding by a dedicated dental hygiene schedule is crucial to care for your inlay or onlay. Make sure to brush and floss twice a day and follow any recommendations from your dentist to ensure your inlay or onlay stays in tip-top shape. Schedule routine follow-up visits so that your dentist can check on the inlay or onlay to make sure that they are firmly in place and able to withstand more use.

In addition to proper oral hygiene, patients should check to see if any other dental problems could cause wear and tear on the inlays and onlays. If a patient grinds their teeth at night, the dentist can provide nightguards or other solutions to keep inlays and onlays from deteriorating or cracking. Steer clear of chewy, hard foods that could compromise the durability of the inlay or onlay.

Are inlays and onlays covered by insurance?

Many insurance providers coverinlay and onlay treatment costs, but this all depends on your insurance coverage. Contact your dental insurance provider to better understand your coverage and benefits.


With proper care, an inlay and onlay can last for decades.

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