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Inlays and onlays - Natural looking and hard-wearing for larger cavities

Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays are used to fill or repair large cavities (holes in the tooth caused by tooth decay). They are used when the cavity is too large for a filling, but the tooth isn’t so damaged that it requires a crown.

An inlay is used to fill a cavity on top of the tooth (where the tooth has small mounds to help chewing). An onlay is used when those ‘mounds’ need replacing – this is also known as a partial crown. Both are tailor-made to your tooth. 

Repairing the tooth with an inlay or onlay will prevent the tooth from further damage or decay in that area, and will restore the tooth to its normal function. 

Inlays and onlays made from porcelain mimic the natural enamel more than any other type of material and are considered state-of-the-art in dentistry, which is why the majority of inlay and onlay treatments at Oakwood Dental Practice are porcelain. There are two types of porcelains that we use depending on the location of the tooth:

  • EMAX: The brand name of the inlay/onlay made from 100% porcelain (lithium disilicate) which is stronger than tooth tissue and has exceptional aesthetics which is why Oakwood Dental Practice predominantly uses EMAX for anterior teeth (at the front of the mouth).
  • Zirconia: Another 100% porcelain (zirconia) inlay/onlay which is considered to be the strongest of all material choices, with great aesthetics that are not quite as natural-looking as EMAX onlays. We predominantly use zirconia for posterior teeth (at the back of the mouth).


Inlays and onlays are suitable for the treatment of adult back teeth that need a fairly substantial restoration but have enough tooth left to not need the full coverage a crown gives. This is usually to repair on of the following issues:


  • Fill a larger cavity left by tooth decay that is not suitable for a standard filling
  • Replace a filling in a back tooth that keeps falling out
  • Strengthen or support a broken or chipped tooth or filling
  • Cover a severely stained or discoloured tooth
  • Restore a worn down tooth



You’ll be given local anaesthetic to numb the area.


Any decay will be removed before your tooth is shaped, cleaned and prepared to bond to the filling.


The composite resin is used to fill the cavity or chip and is then cured using blue LED light, which sets the filling immediately.


An EMAX inlay or onlay is £680 and a Zirconia inlay or onlay is £600. Your dentist will advise which is best suited for your treatment.

As with many of our treatments, patients on one of our membership plans get a 10% discount.

Read more about our membership plans here.


Normal brushing and flossing can resume immediately after your inlay or onlay has been fitted. You may find that there is some sensitivity following your treatment, but applying sensitive toothpaste directly to the area will help to reduce this.

Any discomfort following the treatment should resolve itself after 2-3 days.

While the temporary inlay or onlay is in place it is best to avoid very hard or sticky foods which can cause it to dislodge.

While you’re still numb:
Avoid chewing on the numb side of your mouth as you may bite your tongue and lips without noticing
Be careful with hot drinks, as it may be difficult to tell if the temperature is too hot