Inlays and Onlays Cape Town

Inlays and onlays are indirect fillings or dental restorations that help repair and restore a decayed, damaged, or otherwise compromised tooth. They are used when a cavity is too large for a simple filling or when a tooth is so damaged and decayed that a filling isn’t possible. Inlays and onlays are stronger, fit better, and last longer than traditional fillings. They are also more aesthetically pleasing, allowing for a more natural-looking smile.

Inlays and onlays are typically used on moderately structurally damaged or decayed teeth located at the back of your mouth. In the case of more severe damage, a dental crown will be used to repair your tooth. Inlays and onlays can be seen as a conservative alternative to full crowns.

Inlays and onlays can be made from a variety of materials, including resin, porcelain, and gold. Porcelain and resin inlays and onlays are preferred as they are more aesthetically appealing and can be coloured to look as close to your natural teeth as possible.

Restoring teeth to their optimal form is an art – One which we take great pride in and have meticulously mastered at Ratan and Singh through our years of experience, expertise, and patient-centred approach. If you think that inlays and onlays may be the right dental solution for you, don’t hesitate to contact us to set up your consultation.

What is the difference between Inlay and Onlays?

The main differences between inlays and onlays is the amount of coverage they provide and where they are placed in your mouth.


A dental inlay is a pre-molded filling fitted into the grooves of your tooth. An inlay is placed inside the cusp, or the bumps of your teeth, which is a small area, and is used to restore damage to the biting surface within the cusp of your tooth. Inlays never extend over the cusps of your tooth. The cusp is the shaped structure on the top of back teeth which holds food for chewing.


Similar to inlays, dental onlays are made of a solid, custom-made material. Onlays are used to restore more excessive damage which may have extended beyond one or two cusps. They are often referred to as partial crowns. An Onlay can also be used to fill a larger cavity that extends over the cusps of a tooth. Onlays are larger than inlays, but smaller than a dental crown, and cover the whole chewing area.

What are the benefits of Inlays and Onlays?

  • Inlays and onlays can increase a tooth’s strength by up to 75%. This is unlike traditional fillings which actually have the potential to reduce the strength of your teeth.
  • More resistant to damage and fractures than traditional fillings.
  • Inlays and onlays are custom designed and made in a laboratory to fit your specific tooth structure, color, and shape.
  • They are stain-resistant.
  • They require less of the damaged tooth to be removed than with a traditional filling.
  • Improves the natural appearance and aesthetics of your teeth. As inlays and onlays are made from porcelain or composite resin, they can be colour matched to your other teeth – resulting in a seamless finish and natural-looking smile.
  • Inlays and onlays are extremely durable and last much longer than a traditional filling. Depending on your tooth structure, as well as your cavity and fracture risk, they can last up to 30 years or longer.
  • Dental inlays and onlays prolong your overall tooth life and prevent/significantly reduce the need for any more dental treatments and procedures in the future.

When should you get an Inlay?

Your dental professional may recommend an inlay if the biting surface of your tooth matches the following criteria:

  • Decayed, fractured, chipped or broken teeth that do not affect the cusps of your tooth.
  • The damage to your tooth is extensive enough to need a large dental filling that could weaken the remaining structure.
  • The level of decay, and damage does not allow for the removal of enough tooth material to support mounting a crown.
Book A Dental Implant Consultation Now

Who is a good candidate for Inlays and Onlays

During your initial consultation we will do a thorough assessment to determine whether an inlay or onlay will be a suitable option to address your dental issues. Individuals who have a large cavity that cannot be repaired with a simple filling, has tooth decay and damage to the extent where a filling isn’t possible, or wants to replace a filling with a longer-lasting restoration, are good candidates for the procedure.

If the extent of your tooth decay and damage has progressed past a certain point, a crown will most likely be the most suitable option. Inlays and onlays are extremely durable and far more resistant to damage, cracks, and fractures than traditional fillings. With proper dental care and oral hygiene practises they can last anywhere between 10 – 30 years (even longer in some cases) without showing any signs of wear and tear.

How Do Inlays and Onlays Work

What is the Inlay/Onlay Procedure: Step-By-Step

  • Step 1: Cavity filling removal (if necessary)

Often inlays and onlays are used to replace damaged or fractured cavity fillings. This step of the procedure is only performed if there is an existing filling that needs to be removed prior to placement. Along with the filling, any cavitated tissue will be removed, ultimately leaving a “hollowed out” cavity. After the filling and surrounding cavitated tissue has been successfully removed, your tooth will be prepared, smoothed out and shaped to allow for easier placement of the inlay or onlay.

  • Step 2: Impression of the tooth (inlay/onlay mold)

During your initial consultation, we will take a mold/impression of your cavitated or damaged tooth to be sent to the dental laboratory. This mold will help us determine which material is best/most suitable to use for your inlay or onlay (gold, ceramic, or composite). If ceramic is chosen, we will also decide on the shade of the restoration during your visit.

  • Step 3: Temporary filling placement

While your inlay or onlay is being prepared, we will place a temporary filling to seal the cavity. This will protect your tooth from any thermal stimulation (sensitivity caused by cold or hot liquids) as well help prevent any further decay.

  • Step 4: Inlay/onlay placement

After the restoration, another appointment will be made to have the inlay or onlay placed. During this appointment, a local anesthetic will be administered (only if requested) to reduce any pain and discomfort. The temporary filling will be removed and the inlay or onlay will be cemented into your tooth.

Post-procedures Inlay and Onlay care?

Knowing what to expect after your inlay or onlay procedure can help you get back to your everyday life as soon as possible.

How will I feel after the Dental Inlay or Onlay procedure?

You can expect to experience some numbness in and/or around your mouth, gums, and tongue for a few hours after your dental inlay or onlay procedure. This is due to the local anesthetic.

You may also experience gum tenderness as well as increased tooth sensitivity, especially to cold and heat, for a few days or weeks after your procedure. If the pain, tenderness, and enhanced sensitivity persists beyond a couple of weeks be sure to inform us in the case of an infection or complication.

For your inlay or onlay to have long-lasting effects, the first 48 hours after the procedure are key. Avoid foods and drinks of extreme temperatures, as well as sticky or hard foods. Consume soft and simple foods and nourishment for a few days to give your mouth a gentle rest.

When should I call my dentist?

It is very important to keep your follow-up appointment after a dental inlay or onlay procedure. Call your dentist when you present with any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Bleeding
  • Extreme pain in and around your gums and mouth beyond the expected amount
  • If your experience problems chewing or biting
  • Swelling of your tongue
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, laboured breathing, or wheezing

How Much Do Dental Inlays and Onlays Cost?

The total cost of dental inlays and onlays are dependent on a variety of factors, including the severity of the conditions, size of the restoration, the type of treatment required, and the type of material used. Both inlays and onlays can be fabricated from a range of materials, including porcelain, composite resin, and gold.

Porcelain offers the most aesthetic option, but it is typically the most expensive. Gold inlays and onlays are more affordable but can negatively affect the aesthetics of your smile, ultimately making it appear less natural. Composite resin, also known as an indirect filling, is less expensive, however it is prone to staining over time. These types of restorations will typically not last as long as porcelain or gold.

While the overall cost of a dental onlay is similar to that of a dental inlay, the restoration process of a dental onlay tends to be larger and can cost more. Onlays are used to repair and restore more excessive damage compared to inlays. Onlays are also used to fill larger cavities that extend over the cusps of a tooth.

At Ratan and Singh we are dedicated to delivering a highly personalised, top quality, and exceptional standard of service to each of our patients. To ensure we deliver the best possible service that is specifically tailored to you and your individual needs, budget, and requirements, we will conduct a thorough assessment of your condition during your initial consultation, discuss all the potential options, and decide on the optimal treatment plan that is best suited to you – this way you feel completely comfortable and know exactly what to expect.

Summary of factors that affect the cost of inlays and onlays:

  • The extent/severity of the condition
  • The number of teeth / size of the restoration
  • Type of treatment required
  • Type of material used
  • Brand and quality control
  • Where in the mouth the restoration needs to take place
  • If there are any additional dental issues, problems or complications that need to addressed
  • Laboratory fees
  • Every case is different and it treated as such. After your condition and requirements have been assessed a more accurate estimate can be provided.

Get In Touch With Us

Please let us know what's on your mind. Have a question for us? Ask away.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.