Porcelain Onlay: Benefits & What to Expect

Porcelain onlay, or ceramic onlay, is a dental restoration that restores the aesthetics and function of decayed or fractured teeth. It is a more conservative alternative to crowns as it requires less removal of the tooth structure. Porcelain onlays blend seamlessly with the natural tooth color, making them virtually undetectable. In this blog post, we will discuss the porcelain onlay, its benefits, and the process of getting one.

What is a Porcelain Onlay?

Dental onlays, also known as partial crowns, are dental restorations that cover one or more cusps (projections) of a tooth. They partially cover the tooth, unlike dental crowns that cover the entire tooth. Dental onlay can be made of composite resin, porcelain, or gold.

Porcelain onlays are custom-made fillings commonly used in cosmetic dentistry. They are designed to fit perfectly on the damaged or decayed tooth, restoring the natural tooth appearance and dental function. Porcelain is chosen as it closely resembles natural teeth’ enamel color and translucency, making it the ideal material for onlays that blend with existing teeth seamlessly.

Dental onlays are indirect dental restorations, which means they are fabricated outside of the mouth, usually in a dental laboratory, before being bonded to the tooth. This process involves taking an accurate impression of the prepared tooth, creating a custom-made onlay to fit precisely, and then cementing it in place during the next dental appointment.

Porcelain onlay 3D illustration
Porcelain Onlay restores the aesthetics and function of decayed or fractured teeth.

What is The Difference Between Porcelain Inlay and Onlay?

Porcelain onlay and inlay are similar dental restorations that have slight differences. Inlays are limited to the area between the chewing cusps of a tooth, while onlays extend over one or more cusps.

Inlays are used when there is minimal damage to the tooth structure, while onlays are used when there is extensive damage or decay. Both inlays and onlays are made of the same materials and require a similar procedure for placement.

What are The Benefits of Porcelain Onlay?

Porcelain onlay treatment offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Natural appearance: As mentioned earlier, porcelain onlay is a cosmetic option designed to match the natural tooth appearance and color, making them virtually undetectable. This makes them a choice for those seeking a more natural-looking, ideal alternative to traditional amalgam fillings, which are often more noticeable due to their metallic appearance.
  • Restoring chewing function: Porcelain onlays restore function of teeth and chewing performance by providing a strong, durable surface that mimics the natural cusps of the tooth, allowing for effective and efficient biting and grinding of food.
  • Preservation of Tooth Structure: Dental onlay is a conservative treatment option. Unlike dental crowns that require extensive preparation of healthy tooth structure, porcelain onlays preserve more of the natural tooth. This is because they only cover the damaged or decayed portions, leaving the healthy parts intact.
  • Durability: Porcelain onlays are strong, durable restorations compared to other filling materials. With proper care, they can last 10-15 years or more, offering a long-lasting solution compared to composite fillings, which last about 5-7 years.
  • Easy Maintenance: Porcelain onlays are resistant to staining and can be easily maintained with daily brushing, flossing, and dental checkups.

Composite vs. Porcelain Onlay: Which is Better?

Composite resin material, also known as tooth-colored fillings, can be used for the fabrication of dental onlays. Composite onlays are a popular choice for their aesthetic appeal and affordability, making them a viable alternative option to porcelain onlays.

However, porcelain onlays offer several advantages over composite resin. Advantages of porcelain onlays include:

  • Superior strength and durability
  • Resistance to staining and discoloration
  • More natural appearance
  • Better longevity

While composite resin onlays can last 5-7 years, porcelain onlays can last up to 15 years with proper care. They are also less likely to cause gum irritation and can be polished for a smoother finish.

How is The Procedure Performed?

The porcelain onlay procedure is similar to a dental crown. It usually requires two visits to the dentist. During the initial visit, the dentist will prepare the tooth by removing any decayed or damaged parts. After tooth preparation, they will take complete impressions of the upper and lower jaws. These accurate impressions are sent to the dental laboratory for the fabrication of a custom-made onlay restoration. A temporary filling is placed while the permanent onlay is being made in a dental laboratory.

In the second dental appointment, the temporary restoration is removed, and the permanent onlay is placed and bonded onto the tooth using a special adhesive. The dentist will ensure that the fit and appearance of the onlay are perfect before cementing it permanently in place.

After porcelain onlay placement, the dentist will remove any excess adhesive and check the patient’s bite to make sure the onlay is properly aligned and make any necessary adjustments.

After the dental onlay procedure, follow the care instructions provided by your dentist. This may include avoiding hard foods, maintaining good oral hygiene, and scheduling follow-up visits for monitoring.

Porcelain Onlay vs. Crown

Both porcelain crowns and onlays serve the same purpose of restoring damaged teeth. Also, both require multiple dental visits for the procedure to be completed. However, there are some key differences between porcelain onlays and crowns, such as:

  • Coverage: As mentioned earlier, an onlay covers only a portion of the tooth, while a crown covers the entire chewing surface and tooth.
  • Tooth preparation: Onlays require less removal of tooth structure (conservative preparation) compared to crowns (extensive preparation). They are bonded to the tooth, unlike crowns that require the tooth to be shaped and reduced significantly. This makes porcelain onlay a more conservative treatment option as it preserves more of the natural tooth structure.
  • Protection: As onlays cover only a portion of the tooth, they are not as protective as crowns. Therefore, the natural tooth structure is still susceptible to tooth decay with porcelain onlays. Crowns provide complete coverage and protection to damaged teeth.

Consult your dentist to determine which treatment option is best for your specific dental needs.

Caring for Your Porcelain Onlay

Proper care and maintenance are essential for dental health and to ensure the longevity of your porcelain onlay. Here are some dental care tips:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily to remove plaque between your teeth and follow the right flossing techniques.
  • Use a night guard if you grind or clench your teeth at night to protect your dental onlays and prevent damage to your teeth.
  • Avoid using your teeth to open packages or bite on hard objects, such as ice or pens.
  • Visit your dentist for regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings. They can provide personalized care, detect any issues with your onlay early on, and provide necessary dental treatments.


Porcelain onlays are a popular and effective option for restoring decayed teeth. They offer numerous benefits, such as aesthetic benefits, durability, and conservation of natural tooth structure. With proper care and maintenance, your porcelain onlay can last many years, providing you with a beautiful and healthy smile.

If you have any questions or concerns about porcelain onlays or other dental restorations, don’t hesitate to consult with your dentist. They can provide you with personalized recommendations based on your specific dental needs.

Remember, a healthy and beautiful smile starts with good oral hygiene practices and regular visits to the dentist.

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