To put it simply, a Dental Inlay, or Onlay, is bigger than a filling, but smaller than a crown. It is the solution to a problem that calls for something more than a simple tooth fillings without the dramatic procedure of replacing a damaged tooth with a crown. Dental inlays are used to repair decaying teeth that do not require extensive bridgework, or to replace older metal fillings. Most dental inlays are composed of porcelain, though some can be made from gold or composite resin. Patients that desire a natural smile often request porcelain inlays in lieu of metal fillings, since they are highly undetectable.

The placement of dental inlays is a relatively easy dental procedure, though the completion of inlays tends to require two dental visits. The first visit generally consists of obtaining a tooth impression, which is achieved by placing a temporary inlay upon the area. This impression is then sent to a dental lab where a precise mold of the tooth area is created. The second dental visit will complete the inlay task by replacing the temporary inlay with the permanent one.

Most patients that undergo inlay work do not experience a high level of pain, and most experience only minor discomfort. In fact, it is recommended that inlay patients return to regular activities directly following this type of dental work. This is one of the main reasons why inlays are popular with patients and dentists alike.

There are many benefits that come with the installation of dental inlays. One of the most important benefits is the fact that customized, bonded inlays do not leave room for bacteria to enter the tooth area. Since dentists are able to closely adhere inlays to the tooth, the possibility of further decay is greatly diminished.

While metal fillings can contract and expand according to food temperature, dental inlays are not subject to either hot or cold food conditions. In addition, dental inlays allow a dentist to preserve a larger amount of a patient’s natural tooth. When metal fillings are used, a larger portion of the tooth must be eliminated.

In addition, inlays last up to thirty years, which is significantly longer than any other type of filling. Due to their longevity and durability, the placement of inlays often prevents the need for further dental work at a later time. Another important aspect of inlays is the fact that they can strengthen teeth up to seventy percent, which often prevents future tooth breakage or loss.

Tooth-colored restorations allows a tooth to be filled with a strong chemically bonded material that can be matched to the color of your tooth; making the filling appear nearly invisible. These natural white colored bonded fillings are 90 – 95% as strong as a natural non-cavity healthy tooth. A silver filling is only 40 – 45% as strong as a non-cavity tooth.

Tooth-colored restorations replace unsightly silver dental amalgam. The composite resins used in today’s tooth-colored restorations were introduced in the 1960’s, and have undergone continual improvements in durability, color stability, material-handling qualities, and esthetic properties. tooth-colored restorations are actually bonded to remaining tooth structure, as compared to silver/amalgam restorations, which are “locked” into tooth structure. This property of resin restorations makes them a very conservative approach to tooth restoration because less drilling of the tooth is required for securing the filling.

Benefits of Tooth-Colored Restorations
Beautiful in appearance, natural
Completed in a single visit
No filling leaks
Less chance of tooth cracking


Tooth-colored filling material comes in a great number of shades and is matched to your individual tooth color. The materials used for front teeth have a high shine, whereas the materials for back teeth are designed for strength. Tooth-colored restorations look natural and can be virtually undetectable.


Tooth-colored fillings now are harder and thus more comparable to silver amalgam fillings. A small tooth-colored filling could last a lifetime, and larger such fillings can be expected to last many years. The factors that determine the life span of a particular tooth-colored filling include: the biting force on the filling, the size of the filling relative to the tooth (smaller fillings will usually be more durable than larger fillings), and how teeth are cleaned and maintained.


A new filling should feel natural, like your own teeth. After the anesthesia has worn off and you can feel your teeth and bite again, you should not notice anything particularly different. It should be smooth and comfortable. There is a period that you might feel some sensitivity to temperature after the restoration. This is temporary as with any other restorations.