Alternatives to Traditional Fillings: Inlays and Onlays

June 21, 2014 — by Kenneth W. Coffey, DDS
Tags: Inlays Onlays Dental Crowns Dental Fillings

Middle-aged couple smiling broadly, showing off their healthy teethAlso known as indirect fillings, inlays and onlays are customized ceramic restorations that are used to rebuild the structure of teeth that have been treated for decay or other damage. They are generally used when the damaged portions of teeth are too small to require custom porcelain dental crowns. Nevertheless, at the restorative dentistry practice of Dr. Kenneth W. Coffey in Orland Park, inlays and onlays are just as meticulously crafted as dental crowns to ensure their beauty, durability, and long-term efficacy.

Whether a patient requires an inlay or an onlay depends on the type of damage his or her tooth has sustained.


Inlays are used to treat decay that occurs within the indented top surfaces of the teeth, or the cusps. Once the damaged portion of tooth has been removed, Dr. Coffey makes an impression of the treated tooth. This impression is then used to custom-craft the inlay so that it fits perfectly in the area where natural tooth matter is now missing. After the tooth has been cleaned and prepared, the inlay is bonded into place.


Onlays are used when damage extends to one or more of the cusps of the teeth. As with inlays, before onlays can be placed, the damaged portion of the tooth must be removed and an impression of the tooth must be made. The onlay is then crafted so that it covers the entire biting surface of the tooth, restoring strength and structural integrity once it has been bonded into place.

Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays represent modern dentistry’s answer to traditional metal fillings. These restorations offer a number of outstanding benefits to patients, including;

  • Protection: Inlays and onlays protect teeth that have already been compromised by decay or trauma from becoming more damaged.
  • Strength: Inlays and onlays are made of the finest ceramic materials to ensure that they can withstand the rigors of everyday chewing and biting.
  • Durability: With regular dental visits and proper oral hygiene habits, inlays and onlays can last for a decade or longer.
  • Preservation of healthy tooth structures: The integrity of the tooth is not compromised with inlays and onlays because very little of the healthy tooth structure has to be removed. Compared to other treatments, inlays and onlays are considered to be among the most conservative.
  • Aesthetically pleasing appearance: Because they are customized to the unique specifications of each tooth, inlays and onlays blend perfectly with the surrounding untreated teeth, making them virtually undetectable once placed.
  • High resistance to staining: The ceramic used in inlays and onlays is highly resistant to stains.
  • Exceptional safety: Inlays and onlays are metal-free restorations, making them incredibly safe. In fact, many of our patients elect to have their existing metal fillings replaced with state-of-the-art inlays and onlays.

Contact the Practice of Kenneth W. Coffey, D.D.S. Today

To learn more about the benefits of modern dental treatments such as ceramic inlays and onlays, we encourage you to contact the restorative and cosmetic dentistry practice of Dr. Kenneth W. Coffey today.

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