After experiencing tooth decay or damage, your oral dentist might suggest dental fillings to restore your oral health and beauty. Where the injury on the tooth is not severe to require a dental crown, your dentist will recommend indirect fillings. At the Washington Dental, we provide Inlays & Onlays in Los Angeles, Carson, Torrance & Lomita, CA, to patients whose teeth cannot support a filling.

Overview of Inlays & Onlays

These dental restoration methods are more conservative than crowns. The restorations are also known as indirect fillings and are usually made of gold, porcelain, or composite resin. The material that has been the choice of many is gold, but recently porcelain is becoming more prevalent because of its strength and color, which makes it easy to match with other teeth.

When there is significant damage on the inner portion of your teeth such that a simple filling cannot solve the problem, dentists opt for Inlays. Inlays are familiar with patients whose damage or decay on the tooth is so severe but not deep enough to reach the inner pulp layer of your teeth. The role of the Inlays is to re-erect the internal structure of the tooth without requiring crowns. The fabrication of Inlays occurs in a dental lab forming a single solid piece that takes shape and size of the cavity on your tooth. Once the treatment is complete, the tooth regains its shape and function.

On the other hand, Onlays cover the cusp of your tooth. If the damage on your tooth encompasses its surface or cusp, Onlays are used as a method of restoration. They are also fabricated in the lab using a single solid piece that covers a portion of your tooth, thus helping restore its structure and functionality.

If you are planning on restoring the form and functionality of your tooth without interfering with the dental structure, you should reach out to a Washington Dental soonest possible to schedule a consultation.

The Benefits of Inlays & Onlays

Many men and women in California are opting for Inlays and Onlays as methods of restoring a beautiful smile and functional tooth because of the following benefits:

  1. More Conservative Treatment

If you choose Inlays and Onlays restoration methods, you are likely to retain the original or natural structure of the tooth than with other methods like dental crowns. With Inlays & Onlays, your dentist only needs to remove the portion of the tooth that is damaged. But with crowns, to accommodate the restoration, the dentist removes a significant part of the tooth to make it easy to fit the top. So, if you are looking for a tooth restoration procedure that will help retain the original shape of your tooth, indirect fillings are your answer.

  1. Add Strength, Stability, and Durability of the Teeth

If you are looking for a stable restoration, Inlays and Onlays are your best option. They are made of porcelain or gold, which is durable and robust. With these indirect fillings, a decayed tooth becomes more robust and can last for between 20 to 30 years. If you are a person used to your enamel cracking, Inlays or Onlays can help solve the problem. Because of their durable structure, Inlays and Onlays can enhance your chewing force by 50%-75% more than other natural teeth.

  1. Natural Looking Outcome

The use of porcelain in making Inlays and Onlays makes it easy for the indirect fillings to blend effortlessly with other teeth. Porcelain can easily take the shape and color of the natural enamel, making it difficult for people to notice you have a restoration. Also, after the procedure, the color of the restored tooth is not going to change with time because porcelain is stain resistant. It means you don’t have to worry about tooth discoloration for a long time, unlike other tooth-colored restorations that discolor after some time.

  1. Easy Care

After a restorative procedure using Inlays and Onlays, there is no special care required to keep the teeth healthy. All you need is to brush and floss your teeth daily and maintain regular visits to your dentist. The fact that prefabricated porcelain or gold Inlays & Onlays fit perfectly and require minimum preparations means that even caring for the teeth will be comfortable, unlike crowns. However, if you begin to experience pain on the indirect fillings become loose, visit your Washington Dental dentists.

  1. Weak Tooth Protection

If a portion of your tooth is vulnerable, Onlays can help strengthen the sensitive part without having to cover the entire tooth.

  1. Tight Space Fulfillment

Unlike direct composite fillings that shrink during the healing process, Inlays are prefabricated and precisely fit on the space on your cavity. By thoroughly sealing your tooth, bacteria have no space to get into the tooth, thus preventing infections. Tight space fulfillment also makes it easy to clean the teeth, prevents stains, and ensures exceptional permanency.

  1. Single Visit Procedure

If your dentist is using CAM/CAD technology, with a single visit to the dentist, he or she can examine your teeth, design, and craft Inlays or Onlays. You get to spend less time in the dentist’s office because a combination of an in-office milling unit, 3-D scanner, and advanced computer software, makes the process easy. Also, you get to save a lot of time compared to patients who opt for alternative procedures like dental crowns.

  1. Cost-Effective

Compared to direct fillings, Inlays and Onlays are costlier. However, in the long run, Inlays and Onlays are more cost-effective because of their longevity. Also, because health care insurance providers cover Inlays and Onlays, it means the insurer will foot the full hospital bill or some of it, thus saving you money.

Dental Fillings Vs. Inlays

People often assume dental fillings are similar to Inlays. However, the truth is that the two are different. If you have large cavities, Inlays are the best restorative solution. The two procedures involve drilling of the existing hole to remove the decayed part then filling the space. The way the open space is filled is what differentiates Inlays and dental fillings.

Dental fillings rely on composite resin material to fill the space while Inlays use a single, solid piece to fill the space. It requires a single visit for a dental filling procedure, but for Inlays, you must make two visits to the dentist.

The fabrication of dental Inlays happens in dental labs, but if your dentist has the right technology, the manufacturing can occur in the dental office. The common materials used in the fabrication of Inlays are porcelain, gold, or composite resin. And because they are made to precisely cover the opening in your tooth, bacteria and food debris cannot find its way in the tooth, causing decay. Another advantage of Inlays is that they contract at a different degree as dental fillings. It means that with an inlay, you guarantee that the restoration isn’t going to fail or leave gaps in the space between the dental filling and tooth structure.

Keep in mind that Inlays are more expensive than dental fillings. What makes them a lesser option for many is the fact that some insurers consider Inlays as dental fillings. Therefore, when a dentist conducts the procedure, the insurer might fail to cover the costs resulting in loss of money. If the dentists discover that your insurer is not willing to pay for the Inlays treatment, you will be the person to cover the whole bill. With this in mind, you should opt for this procedure if you are ready to cover the additional costs or if you are not insured.

Dental Crowns Vs. Onlays

The two procedures are used where the decay or physical injury on your tooth is extensive such that dental fillings or Inlays cannot cover. The main difference between Inlays and Onlays is that Inlays fill the area between the cusps while Onlays cover the area surrounding the cusp. A hole is drilled in the cavity before the Onlays is fitted to protect certain parts of the tooth. A crown, on the other hand, covers the whole tooth, including the top and the sides. 

When comparing a crown and Onlays, you will realize that a dental crown requires removal of tooth structure than Onlays. It means a person that undergoes the Onlays procedure is likely to retain the original construction of the tooth than a person who receives a crown procedure. The reason being less tooth structure is extracted during the treatment. The cost of crowns and Onlays is almost similar, although Onlays are much cheaper. Because of affordability, several people are choosing Onlays instead of dental crowns as a solution.

Note that when it comes to insurance coverage, many dentists and patients choose dental crowns. Onlays are treated the same as Inlays by insurance companies, which means they are not covered by the majority of insurers, leaving dentists with losses or patients with substantial dental bills.

Restoration Preparation and Procedure

The process of regaining a functional and esthetic tooth begins with a visit to the dentist. During the visit, your dentist will examine your teeth or tooth and listen to the issues you are raising. After, he or she will suggest the best restorative or cosmetic treatment that will result in the desired outcome with minimal damage to your oral health. If the dentist settles on Inlays and Onlays as the best methods, the procedure can be completed within two appointments.

During the first visit, the dentist will extract the decayed part in your cavity. If your dental tissue is infected, the dentist will get rid of it, too, then begin to shape the damaged section or area that had been destroyed. The shaping occurs as part of the preparation for the restoration. When the tooth is ready for Onlays or Inlays, the dentist will take an impression of the specific tooth and the overbite. If the damage is only on the top of the tooth, an Inlays impression is made. But if the harm extends over the cusp to the sides of the tooth, Onlays restoration will be prepared. The mold is then sent to a dental lab for fabrication.

If you require another appointment for the restoration to be fitted, the dentist can install a temporary Inlays or only similar to the final one. The temporary restoration covers the opening drilled in your cavity until the final restoration is fitted. The temporary restoration prevents food and bacteria from getting into the pilot hole before the final restoration is fitted.

Also, the type of material to be applied in the fabrication of the restoration must be discussed during the initial meeting. Patients have personal preferences when it comes to the material to be used. If you are not much focused on the beauty or esthetics, gold is the right material. If the tooth or teeth that require restoration are on your smile line, beauty is of great concern because of your smile. Porcelain is the best material for such patients whose main objective is to attain tooth functionality and, at the same time, a flawless smile. For patients with misaligned teeth or those that grind their teeth can opt for composite resin material.

When you come for your second appointment, the temporary restoration will be removed, and the final restoration placed. The restoration can be Inlays or Onlays, depending on the underlying problem.

Once the Inlays or Onlays have been fitted, the dentist will check the margins to ensure there is tight contact after polishing. Additionally, to ensure the margins of the restoration are not affected by occlusion, your dentist will check your bites.   

Note that although these procedures often take two appointments with the dentist, it is possible to find dentists who can provide the whole treatment on a single visit. It will, however, require the dentist to have modern technology. During the procedure, you might feel some discomfort, especially during drilling, which is why dentists will use anesthesia to ensure there is no pain or discomfort.

The Future of Inlays & Onlays

The need for long-lasting and esthetically appealing Inlays and Onlays that are more natural and similar to the standard tooth structure has resulted in the evolution of materials used in the fabrication of restorations. Because of the need to resolve or preserve tooth tissue and partially cover the tooth, Inlays and Onlays are becoming prevalent. To make the restorative techniques more appealing to clients, researchers have introduced all-ceramic, and porcelain Inlays and Onlays etched with hydrofluoric acid. Porcelain etched with hydrofluoric acid, and composite luting agents has provided dentists and patients with a more conservative and appealing way of restoring a decayed or damaged tooth.

Many experts have been using all-ceramic restorative materials in the past two decades because of the ability of the material to effectively bond with the tooth structure using acid etch techniques or adhesive cement. Because of the high rate at which restorative materials are evolving, Inlays and Onlays will not be replaced any soon by alternative procedures. The naturalness and functional longevity associated with these restoration techniques is the reason for continued preference. As researchers try to find a solution to tooth discoloration, further improvement of restoration materials will ensure your tooth maintains color for a long time, thus enhancing the beauty value of Inlays and Onlays. 

Choosing the Right Dentist 

There are no dental institutions that formally train dentists on Inlays and Onlays. To acquire knowledge about these restorative solutions as a dentist, you must enroll in a continuing education program. The programs or courses offering Inlays and Onlays procedures are very few, which means there are very few dentists out in the market offering these services. Keep in mind the outcome of the process is dependent on the tools and experience of the dentist. If your dentist has zero knowledge about these restorations, then the desired results will be unattainable.

If you prefer porcelain Inlays or Onlays, you must find a dentist who has the material. The same will apply when you need gold or composite resin restoration. You might want to do some background checks on your preferred candidate to make the right choice.

When conducting the background checks, make sure you pick a dentist who works closely with dental laboratory technicians who have the latest technology and willing to work closely with their clients. If your dentist has a good relationship with the dental lab technicians, it will be easy to get feedback on the best design for Inlays or Onlays. Also, whenever there is a new trend in the market on the material used for restoration, your dentist will be updated.

Choosing a dentist with modern technology will help in deciding on the best treatment procedure during an initial consultation. The technology makes it possible for the dentist to send the dental lab technician images of the damaged tooth so that they can suggest which technique between Inlays and Onlays is going to work. Dental technicians working closely with dentists also ensures proper planning for upcoming cases because of real-time communication.

Also, keep in mind that where your dentist has to rely on a dental lab for design and fabrication, one appointment will not be enough to complete the procedure. You will have to pay the dentist a second visit once the damaged tooth is prepared. However, if you pick a dentist who uses modern technology like CAD/CAM and 3-D scanners, you can be sure that once they mold a dimension, you will have the Inlays or Onlays fabricated on the same day and fitted.

Cost of Inlays & Onlays

The cost of Inlays ranges between $250 to $1,500. The cost of Onlays, on the other hand, ranges between $350 to $1,500. Several factors determine the price of these treatment techniques. Some of the factors include:

The Dentist Conducting the Procedure

The type of dentist you pick to perform the treatment will determine the amount of money you will pay. If the dentist is profound and experienced in Inlays and Onlays, you will pay higher amounts of money because of the quality services they provide.

Additionally, if the dentist has more training, it means they have more knowledge, thus more suitable to provide quality services. Keep in mind that picking a dentist that offers the lowest prices in the market might be a huge mistake because the dentist might lack the knowledge and experience required to provide quality service. If the cost of treatment is meager, then the same might reflect in the quality of treatment.


The location of the dentist is another factor that might affect the cost of treatment. Dentists located in major cities are likely to charge more because of overheads than those situated in small towns.

The Tooth or Teeth Requiring Treatment

If the decayed tooth is at the back, it will require more work or will be challenging to work on than the one located on the smile line. The more work a tooth requires, the higher the amount of money you will part with for the treatment.

Type of Material Used

Depending on the market, restorations made of gold are more expensive. However, porcelain being fabricated by a highly skilled dental lab technician can be costly.


When Inlays or Onlays are large, you will part with more money. If the size of the restoration is small, the lesser money you will pay for the procedure.

In California, insurers categorize Inlays and Onlays in basic or major categories. Basic provides up to 80% coverage for fillings, cleaning, and routine checkups. If the restoration procedure is categorized as major, the insurer will only cover 50% of the cost.

Dentists know the various reimbursement rates by insurers, so it’s wise to consult with them to provide an estimate from your insurance company so that you can understand what to expect. The amount of coverage for one insurer will not be like that of other insurers because the rates vary with the country and the policy carrier.

Find a Los Angeles Dentist Near Me

Get in touch with our dentists at the Washington Dental to examine you and see if Inlays & Outlays are a suitable option if you have a dental problem. You can visit our local offices in Downtown LA, Carson, Torrance, or Lomita.

We serve these locations locally to you: Lomita DentistCarson DentistLos Angeles Dentist