Demystifying Dental Onlays and Inlays

Have you heard of dental onlays and inlays but need clarification on the process and benefits of these treatments? If so, you’re not alone. Despite their popularity, most people have yet to learn what these procedures entail and how they can improve their oral health.

This article will provide a clear and concise understanding of dental onlays and inlays without diving too deeply into technical details or definitions. Whether you’re considering these treatments for yourself or a loved one, this article will give you a better understanding of the process and benefits of dental onlays and inlays.

What are Dental Inlays?

Dental inlays are a restoration used to fill cavities or repair large cracks or chips in teeth. They are made from gold, porcelain, or composite resin material. The procedure involves removing the decay or damaged area of the tooth and replacing it with a custom-made inlay that fits perfectly into the cavity.

What are Dental Overlays?

Dental overlays are similar to dental inlays but are used when there is not enough healthy tooth structure to support an inlay. An overlay is a thin layer of porcelain or composite resin material that covers part or all of your tooth surface. It’s bonded to your existing tooth structure and helps protect it from further damage caused by bacteria or decay.

The Benefits of Dental Inlays and Overlays

If you’re dealing with a damaged tooth, you may be considering dental inlays or overlays as a potential solution. Both have advantages, so let’s look at some of the benefits of using inlays or overlays.


Both inlays and overlays are made from materials such as porcelain, gold, composite resin, or ceramic. These materials make them highly durable and can last many years with proper care and maintenance.

Moreover, these materials are also resistant to staining, which means they will stay looking good for longer periods.

Natural Appearance

Since inlays and overlays are custom-made for each patient based on their unique teeth structure, they provide a natural-looking restoration option that looks just like your natural teeth. It is especially true if you opt for porcelain or ceramic material for your restoration because these materials closely resemble healthy enamel.

Long Lasting Results

Dental inlays and overlays can last anywhere from 10-20 years, depending on how well you take care of them. If you follow your dentist’s instructions regarding brushing/flossing frequency and change lifestyle habits such as drinking sugary beverages or smoking cigarettes, they’ll last very long.

Cost Efficiency

Restoring a damaged tooth with an inlay or overlay is often more cost-effective than getting a crown. These restorations require less prep since they don’t require the removal of large amounts of enamel from the tooth.

Improved Bite Strength

Dental inlays and onlays are designed to fit securely onto the damaged surface area, which helps restore bite strength. These fillings provide extra stability when eating or speaking. They prevent further damage from weak bite forces or shifting teeth.

Reduced Risk of Decay and Infection

Since dental inlay/overlay restorations don’t involve drilling any healthy tooth structure, there is less risk of decay or infection than other restorations, such as fillings or crowns. As an added benefit, this also reduces treatment time since less preparation is required before placing the restoration.

Risks Associated With Dental Inlays and Overlays

While they have numerous benefits, dental inlays and overlays also carry some risks. Potential risks include the following:

  • Pain or sensitivity: After placing an inlay or overlay, you may experience discomfort or sensitivity. This sensitivity is usually temporary and can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Allergic reaction: In rare cases, patients may experience an allergic reaction to the materials used in the inlay or overlay. This reaction can cause itching, swelling, and redness in the affected area.
  • Decay: If the inlay or overlay is not sealed correctly, it can trap bacteria and food particles, leading to decay. Regular dental cleanings and checkups can prevent this from happening.
  • Misalignment: If the inlay or overlay is not placed correctly, it can cause misalignment of the bite, leading to further dental problems.
  • Nerve damage: In rare cases, placing an inlay or overlay can damage the nerves in the tooth, leading to pain or numbness.

The Dental Inlays and Overlay Procedure Step-By-Step

The process takes two or more appointments and can last several weeks. Your dentist can give you a more accurate timeline based on your specific needs and the type of restoration you are receiving. Here’s the procedure step-by-step.

  • Examination and preparation: Your dentist will examine your teeth to determine if an inlay or overlay is the best solution. They will take X-rays and impressions of your teeth to create a model for the restoration.
  • Tooth preparation: In case of an inlay, your dentist will remove any damaged or decayed areas from the tooth and reshape it to make room for restoration. Your dentist will only remove damaged or decayed areas in an overlay.
  • Fabrication: The inlay or overlay is fabricated in a laboratory using materials such as porcelain, composite resin, or gold. The dentist will place a temporary restoration while the permanent one is being made.
  • Placement: At your next appointment, your dentist will remove the temporary restoration and place the permanent inlay or overlay. They will check to ensure that the restoration fits correctly and that your bite is comfortable.
  • Bonding: The dentist will then bond the inlay or overlay to the tooth using a strong dental adhesive. They may use a curing light to help harden the adhesive.
  • Polishing: Once the inlay or overlay is in place, your dentist will polish it to give it a smooth, natural appearance.
  • Aftercare: Your dentist will give you instructions for caring for your inlay or overlay and will schedule follow-up appointments to monitor its progress. You will need to maintain good oral hygiene and avoid biting or chewing on hard foods to keep your restoration in good condition.

Are Dental Inlays/Overlays Painful?

Dental inlays and overlays are not painful. During the procedure, your dentist will use local anesthesia to numb the affected tooth and surrounding tissue, which should minimize discomfort or pain.

After the procedure, you may experience some sensitivity or discomfort, which you manage with over-the-counter pain relievers. However, this is temporary and resolves independently within a few days.


Dental inlays and onlays are effective and long-lasting treatments for repairing damaged teeth and restoring their function and appearance. They offer a more conservative approach than full crowns by replacing only the damaged portion of the tooth and preserving healthy tooth structure. With proper care and maintenance, inlays and onlays can last for many years, providing patients with a beautiful and functional smile.


Color Skin

Nav Mode