Dental inlays and onlays

Dental inlay is kind of filling prepared by the dental laboratory, substituting missing dental tissue and restoring the anatomy and masticatory function of the tooth. Inlay/onlays are cemented onto the tooth.

Ceramic onlay on the master cast demonstrating the extent of dental tissue it is capable of restoring

What are the indications for dental inlays?

Dental inlays or onlays enjoy precedence over conventional fillings with teeth so extensively affected by caries that even surfaces adjacent to neighbouring teeth are involved. In such instances aesthetic fillings prepared at the clinic no longer offer a reliable solution.

With great extents of missing dental tissue inlays offer a viable, long lasting solution.

It may also be used for the following:

  • Extensive tooth decay affecting multiple surfaces

  • In replacing large-scale amalgam fillings

  • Core build-up of root-canal treated teeth

  • For adjustment of occlusal height

  • In restoring the morphological and aesthetic deformities of teeth

What are inlays and onlays?

Dental inlays restoring the shape and contour of teeth are fabricated by dental laboratories. Inlays are dental inserts of a lesser size, whereas onlays are larger dental inserts of covering the entire surface of a tooth.

What kinds of materials can dental inlays/onlays be made of?

Dental inlays/onlays can be made of several materials:

  • Ceramic (E. Max)

  • Composite material (Belle Glass) with a lifelike feel and look

  • Gold

The benefits of aesthetic dental inlays:

  • By means of inlays/onlays remaining dentition can be salvaged, with less dental material to be filed away as in the case of crowns.
  • Strength and resilience over plain fillings.
  • Complies with high aesthetic standards.
  • Allows for developing perfect contact points with adjacent teeth.
  • Restores missing dental cusps in the long term.
  • A durable, aesthetic means of tooth restoration.

High-resilience inlays are mainly intended for the partial or full restoration of molar and premolar surfaces. Thanks to inlays/onlays, the original shape and contour of the tooth can be perfectly restored.

Ceramic onlay prior to cementing in place

The disadvantages of inlays/onlays

Its only disadvantage is that it carries a “heftier price tag” than a conventional filling.

The procedure of fabricating inlays/onlays

Aesthetic Inlays/onlays are mounted under topical anaesthesia during which the dentist forms an appropriate cavity by removing decayed tooth segments in which to cement the inlay/onlay. An impression is taken of the cavity thus formed, bite registration is taken and the perfect tooth colour is selected. All this information is forwarded to the dental technician who fabricates the inlay/onlay in a matter of days. The cavity is sealed with a provisional filling to protect the teeth until the restoration is complete. The inlay/onlay is cemented in place in a few workdays later.

Overall, inlays/onlays offer a more durable, aesthetic solution for the treatment of tooth decay in the rear, molar region. Inlay/onlay should be thought of as a long term investment since its lifetime is several times that of a conventional filling.

Perfect aesthetic solution: restoration of the first molar with an E. Max full ceramic onlay


Fábián T, Götz Gy, Kaán M, Szabó I: A fogpótlástan alapjai. Semmelweis Kiadó, 2001.

Kivovics P, Kóbor A, Hermann P: Fogpótlástani anyagtan és odontotechnológia. Semmelweis Kiadó, 2015.