Say Goodbye to Metal Fillings With Inlays and Onlays

Modern dentistry offers a full spectrum of treatments for a variety of issues. When it comes to filling cavities, a metal filing was once the only option, but now there are several different ways to treat dental caries. 

Dr. Benjamin C. Wang and our team here at Centerport Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry in Portland, Oregon, offer the most advanced treatments and techniques to keep your mouth healthy and your smile dazzling. And for many of our patients, that means steering clear of visible metalwork, including fillings. 

While the specifics of your dental condition dictate the best treatment, there’s often room for personal choice as well. One of our most popular restorative dentistry treatments for certain types of cavities is an inlay or onlay. Here’s what you need to know.

Inlay/onlay 101

Inlays and onlays are the Goldilocks of dental procedures. When you have a cavity that’s too big for a traditional filling but not big enough to warrant a crown, inlays and onlays are “just right.”

More substantial than a filling, but less obtrusive than a crown, onlays and inlays solve the problems that fall in between. The best candidates for this treatment are cavities that are located in the center of your tooth, rather than the outer edges.

If Dr. Wang determines an inlay or onlay is the best course of treatment for you, he numbs the area so he can drill a small hole and clean out the decay, then he creates a 3D digital image of your tooth, creates a porcelain inlay or onlay, and bonds it to your tooth.

Inlays versus onlays

These similar-sounding treatments have slightly different applications. The deciding factor is location.


For cavities that nestle into the valleys of your tooth — in between the pointy parts called cusps — we use inlays. We mold the porcelain and fit it to the unique contours of your tooth. It conforms to the hollow area and matches the color of your tooth perfectly.


Also made of porcelain and designed to hug the nooks and crannies of your tooth, an onlay covers a little more territory than an inlay. Onlays treat the biting surface as well as the affected cusps.

Are inlays/onlays right for you?

In addition to treating cavities, onlays can also treat a broken or chipped cusp, preserving the tooth without the need for altering its basic form, as is necessary with a crown. Care is simple, too, as you treat your inlays and onlays just as you do your natural teeth. 

Inlays and onlays typically last 10-30 years, so depending on your age, they could last a lifetime. 

Decisions about the right treatment for your teeth are best made in consultation with Dr. Wang. To find out if onlays or inlays could improve your oral health and smile, call us today or book an appointment online.

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