What are Tooth-colored inlays?

Teeth that have a large existing composite or amalgam (silver) filling, decay, and teeth that have been fractured off, require a complete or partial coverage of the tooth structure to protect them and to improve their appearance. In these cases inlay or onlay may be a great option. An inlay or onlay is a lab fabricated restorative piece that fits onto your tooth like a puzzle to replace the lost tooth structure.




Their advantage versus a crown is that less tooth structure needs to be removed in order to fully protect the tooth and they don’t shrink with time as some filling materials do. This is a very conservative way to repair only the bad part of the tooth and not take any more tooth structure away then we have to. Metal crowns can cause a black hue to gums overtime and are especially noticeable when a patient smiles. A crown covers the entire top and sides of a tooth, while inlays and onlays cover only a small portion of the tooth. Inlays can be constructed so precisely that they leave no space between the prosthetic and the tooth where harmful bacteria could enter. One of the biggest advantages of inlays over crowns is that their margins don’t touch the gums, which leads to better oral hygiene. This makes the inlays and onlays a better choice in most cases than metal and composite fillings, and crowns.

Inlays are for you if you have any of the following:

  • You don’t like the appearance of your amalgam (silver) fillings
  • Your amalgam/composite fillings were placed more than 10 years ago and need to be replaced but should not be replaced with another filling to avoid future problems
  • You have a fractured tooth
  • You have a root-canaled tooth that never had a crown and needs to be covered*
  • Your dentist said you need a crown/inlay and you want to avoid disadvantages of placing a crown*
  • Your oral hygiene is suffering from existing large fillings

*-(Sometimes inlay/onlay is not an option in this case)


Inlays are generally placed on posterior (molar and premolar teeth). If you are not sure how to identify those teeth, please call us and we’ll help you.

Inlays do not replace existing crowns.


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