Dental Inlays and Onlays: A Conservative Alternative to Dental Crowns


Following treatment for decay or trauma, a filling may not be enough to restore the structure of a tooth, but a crown may be excessive. In these cases, your dentist may recommend a dental inlay or onlay. Inlays and onlays, also known as indirect fillings, are tooth-colored porcelain restorations designed to replace a missing portion of a tooth, much like a puzzle piece. Dr. David Redford places dental inlays and onlays at his Denver, CO, office. This conservative restorative option is fully customized to support the tooth and achieve a natural appearance. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Redford and restore your smile.

Candidates for Dental Inlays and Onlays

A dental inlay fits within the bite surface of a tooth, between its edges, or "cusps." Dental onlays are a larger version of a dental inlay, covering at least one cusp. They differ from some other types of restorations in a few key ways.

Traditional fillings are made from from metal amalgam or composite resin. Dr. Redford molds these fillings within the tooth directly, then hardens them with a special curing light. Dental inlays and onlays are milled from porcelain in an offsite dental laboratory. They are inherently stronger than traditional fillings and a better choice when a substantial amount of tooth structure must be replaced. In some cases, Dr. Redford will recommend replacing an existing filling with an inlay or onlay if it has become loose or affected by decay.

Dental inlays and onlays are more conservative than dental crowns. While these indirect fillings cover only a portion of the bite surface of a tooth, a dental crown completely covers a tooth on all sides, fitting over it like a cap. To place a crown, Dr. Redford must reduce a substantial portion of dental enamel to make room. Whenever possible, Dr. Redford will choose a more conservative option, like an inlay or onlay, to preserve more of your natural tooth.

Ultimately, Dr. Redford will determine what type of restoration is best for you.

Creating and Placing Dental Inlays and Onlays

Once Dr. Redford has determined that a dental inlay or onlay is the best option for you, he will prepare your tooth. He will carefully remove decayed tissue from your tooth and thoroughly clean the remaining healthy structure. Next, he will take an impression of your prepared tooth. He sends this impression to our high-quality dental laboratory, where your inlay or onlay will be crafted by a skilled technician. Dr. Redford will ensure that your restoration is matched to your natural tooth color, so that it is indistinguishable from your natural tooth.

Your restoration will be crafted and returned to University Dental Arts in approximately two weeks. While you wait for your permanent restoration, you will wear a temporary dental inlay or onlay. When you return to University Dental Arts for your second appointment, Dr. Redford will place your restoration and make sure it fits securely in the space. He will make any necessary adjustments to achieve a comfortable bite. Next, he will carefully bond it to your tooth. Once it is placed, your new restoration is completely functional, and you can leave the office and continue with your day as normal.

Learn More about Inlays and Onlays

Dr. Redford will carefully evaluate your smile to determine what type of restoration is right for you, using the most conservative options whenever possible. Contact University Dental Arts today to schedule an appointment and explore your options.

University Dental Arts
1675 Larimer Street, Suite 880

Denver, CO 80202
Phone: 303-534-7797
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