Indirect Fillings: Custom-crafted Inlays and Onlays By drfrey on November 07, 2014

An elderly woman smiling happily, her teeth healthy thanks to custom-crafted inlays and onlaysTraditional metal fillings used to be the only game in town when it came to restoring the structure of a tooth that had been damaged by decay or trauma. Now, however, thanks to advances in restorative dentistry, modern dental patients enjoy a number of aesthetically pleasing, highly durable alternatives to those old-fashioned amalgam eyesores, including custom-crafted, ceramic inlays and onlays.

At The Smile Center in Virginia Beach, inlays and onlays are made from the highest-quality materials to ensure the best possible results in terms of form, function, and longevity. Also known as “indirect fillings,” inlays and onlays allow patients to restore the structural integrity of their teeth without compromising the beauty of their smiles.

Inlays and Onlays vs. Traditional Fillings

Inlays and onlays perform exactly the same function as traditional amalgam fillings. Like amalgam fillings, they are used to replace the missing structure of a tooth from which a damaged portion has been removed by a dentist or from which a portion has been lost due to trauma. Unlike amalgam fillings, however, inlays and onlays can be matched to complement the precise color of the natural tooth so that they blend seamlessly into the smile. They are also completely mercury free and do not expand and contract when exposed to hot and cold temperatures, unlike metal fillings.


Each tooth in your mouth contains between one and five elevated peaks at its surface. These peaks are called cusps. Inlays are used to treat damage that occurs within these cusps, but leaves the cusps themselves unscathed.

An inlay is custom crafted from an impression made of a tooth after the damaged portion has been removed. The inlay is made according to exacting specifications to fit precisely in the space within the cusps of the tooth. After the tooth has been cleaned and prepared, the inlay is bonded into place, where it will remain for years with proper care.


Onlays are identical to inlays in terms of their creation and purpose. Unlike inlays, however, onlays are used to replace the damaged portion of a tooth when it extends to at least one of the tooth’s cusps. In some cases, onlays cover most of the biting surface of a damaged tooth.

In cases in which a tooth is too extensively damaged to support an onlay, it may be necessary to cover the entire tooth with a dental crown. Dental crowns are crafted from the same high-quality ceramic materials and offer the same aesthetic and functional benefits as inlays and onlays. However, crowns replicate the entire tooth, from the gumline upward. Crowns offer the additional benefit of reinforcing the whole tooth, preventing it from further damage while strengthening the bite and preserving as much of the natural structure of the tooth as possible.

Learn More about Inlays and Onlays

If you are interested in learning more about inlays and onlays, or you would like to schedule your initial consultation with Dr. Scott Parr or Dr. Tara Frey, we would be happy to assist you. Please contact The Smile Center today.

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The Smile Center

The Smile Center

The Smile Center in Virginia Beach has been providing high-quality dental care since 1988. We are proud to be affiliated with:

  • American Academy of Facial Esthetics
  • The American Orthodontic Society
  • American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry

For more information about our services, contact us online or call (757) 473-8482 today.

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