Onlays, Inlays and Fillings

Dental biofilm is comprised of acid-producing bacteria that form around the teeth. These acids demineralize the enamel to the point where cavities begin to form. If left untreated, cavities can destroy the crowns and roots. Depending on the extensiveness of the damage, restoration methods differ to ensure the longevity of the dental work performed.


When constructing fillings, the decayed dental tissue must first be removed by grinding down the infected tooth structure to ensure retention and resistance. Afterwards, a filling material like amalgam, gold or composite is chosen and is applied directly to the tooth.

When the tooth is heavily decayed but not damaged enough to place a crown, direct fillings are not the primary choice. Many dentists prefer to reconstruct the tooth by using inlays or onlays.


Inlays are chosen when the tooth’s pits, fissures and ridges need to be reconstructed. The tooth is ground down and an impression or mold is taken so that the inlay can be separately built and attached in a future appointment. A temporary material is placed to fill in the tooth until the next appointment.


When a tooth’s cuspids (peaks) need to be reconstructed, an onlay is considered. When the patient bites, cuspids fit into the opposing tooth’s pits. Therefore any alteration of the structure can dramatically change the bite.

Inlays and onlays are handmade at the lab. After a cast mold of the tooth is taken, the inlay or onlay is built from it. It is carefully designed to fit perfectly into the tooth and to contact exactly at the right places when the patient bites.

They are commonly made of composite (resin), gold or porcelain and a great option to permanently restore teeth when a crown is not yet needed. They are also aesthetically pleasing and they offer excellent longevity and protection for the pulp.

If you are interested in fillings, inlays or onlays in Costa Rica, please fill out the “Help me find a Dentist!” form and a participating dental specialist will contact you to discuss your case.