Porcelain Inlays & Onlays


Tooth decay or damage to a tooth when left untreated can cause more problems like the damage extending to the whole tooth and the need for a root canal procedure. When detected and treated on time, restorative procedures like porcelain inlays and onlays can protect the tooth from further damage and can even strengthen the tooth.

At San Anselmo Family Dentistry we offer both inlay and onlay procedures. Inlays and onlay are both methods of treating teeth that have tooth decay and cavities. The difference between the two arises from the area of the tooth that is fitted with the restoration. Porcelain inlays and onlays are made to look exactly like natural teeth and once fitted, are completely unnoticeable.


When the extent of the tooth decay is restricted to the groove of the tooth, an inlay is used to fill the cavity. To prepare an inlay, the dentist will first clean out all the decayed part of the tooth. Once the cavity is completely free of plaque and damaged matter, a mold of the tooth is prepared and sent to a lab for the inlay to be made.

It takes a few weeks for the inlay to be made, and in the meantime a temporary filling is placed in the cavity to prevent food from accumulating and another infection from taking place. The temporary filling also protects the sensitive inside of the tooth.

In the lab, the mold is used to prepare an exact 3D model of the tooth along with the cavity. Porcelain is used to make a filling that will fit precisely into the cavity and seal it completely. When the inlay is ready, it is sent to the dentist who will call the patient in for another sitting. During this sitting, the inlay is fitted into the cavity and bonded to the tooth. Any adjustments that have to be made to the inlay are made at this time. The inlay is bonded permanently to the tooth so that is does not shift or get displaced while chewing food. There is also no gap between the inlay and the tooth, so no food particles can get trapped there.


Onlays are exactly like inlays in the way that they are prepared, except that they cover a bigger area of the tooth. Onlays are used when the infection or damage extends to the cusps or chewing surface of the tooth. Onlays too are prepared in a lab and a temporary filling is required in the interim period.


Porcelain inlays and onlays have several advantages:

  • They are strong and durable.
  • They are safer than amalgam fillings.
  • They are cheaper than gold fillings.
  • They look exactly like the tooth and are undetectable once they are fitted.
  • They can be fitted with only minimal removal of the tooth leaving as much healthy tooth as possible intact.

To find out more about porcelain inlays and onlays or to book an appointment with us, please call us at one of the numbers listed below.