What are Inlays and Onlays?

As dentists, our job is to restore your teeth. Inlays and onlays do just that — they strengthen your decayed or damaged tooth without removing too much tooth structure. Since inlays and onlays remove the smallest amount of original tooth structure, they are minimally invasive.

On the other hand, a dental crown involves removing parts of the tooth in order to place a cap on the root. Though inlays and onlays retain more tooth structure, crowns are sometimes necessary in order to preserve the tooth’s natural root. 

The Procedure

Much like our same-day dental crown or dental filling procedure, the first step is to clean your mouth. Using a drill or a more advanced method of air abrasion, your dental team removes any decay or damage. Since this procedure is minimally invasive, we remove as little of your natural tooth as possible. That’s where inlays and onlays differ from other procedures. For instance, with a dental filling, we would remove a larger portion of your natural tooth and then fill in the entire area with a composite mixture.

Next, our team will take digital images of your tooth. Using a handheld wand, we will create 3D images of your tooth in order to see what your exact bite looks like. Then, we will create your porcelain inlay or onlay in our in-office lab, Elite Dental Arts, before bonding it to your tooth. 

We create both inlays and onlays in our lab before bonding them to your teeth. The difference between the two just depends on how much decay we see in your tooth. 


The smaller of the two, an inlay, fits within the grooves of your teeth. These are the small areas of space within the cusps of your teeth. Generally, when we fit an inlay, a cavity has just begun to form. 


On the other hand, an onlay can cover more space than an inlay. An onlay wraps over the cusps of your tooth and fits within the grooves as well. Therefore, an onlay can repair more damage and decay than an inlay. 

Keeping Your Inlays and Onlays Healthy

To keep your smile healthy and your new inlay or onlay intact, continue to practice good oral hygiene at home. First, brush your teeth at least twice a day. In addition to brushing, floss once or twice a day. Using a mouthwash once a day will help keep your teeth strong as well. 

Even with impeccable oral hygiene, visiting your dentist for routine six-month visits is imperative. Your teeth are very sensitive and can form small cavities whether you maintain good oral hygiene or not. Regular visits to your dentist will allow us to catch small cavities before larger decay forms. 

Your Dentist for Inlays and Onlays in Wilmington

To receive exceptional dental care with the best technology and minimally-invasive techniques, visit Michael T. Rosen, DDS, MS, FAGD, LVIF. We love our patients and, therefore, promise to always provide honesty and support. In other words, we will never recommend a procedure that you don’t need or one that is more invasive than others. 

Call us at (302) 994-0979 to schedule an appointment with our dental team in Wilmington for inlays and onlays.