Inlays, onlays, overlays – costs & treatment

What are inlays, onlays and overlays and when are they used in dentistry? The following overview covers how long they last, what the differences are and how much they cost in Switzerland.

Reading time: 5min

Topic: Dental restorations

Inlays, Overlays, Onlays

What are inlays, onlays and overlays?

Dental inlays, onlays and overlays are permanent and custom-made dental restorations or fillings that can be used to correct defective teeth. They can restore medium to larger defects when conventional fillings are not sufficient.

If a tooth is affected by cavities, the affected tissue is fully removed and the remaining empty space is filled and sealed. These dental restorations and fillings can consist of different materials and be produced in a variety of different ways.

What is a dental inlay?

Filling for minor defects with enough healthy tooth substance.

What is a dental onlay?

Filling for medium defects. Can also be used to repair larger areas of damage.

What is a dental overlay?

Filling for larger defects, precursor to crowns

Whether an inlay, onlay or overlay is the right solution depends on how much damaged tooth substance needs to be removed and how much healthy substance remains. All three varieties are made to measure for each patient.

Overview: dental inlays, onlays and overlays

  Definition Suitable for

Filling inside of the tooth

  • Smaller damage to the side teeth
  • Only possible if there is still enough healthy tooth substance

Filling that completely covers the top of the tooth

  • Moderate damage to the side teeth
  • Can also be used to repair larger areas of damage

Filling that covers the top and the edges of the tooth

  • More extensive damage to the side teeth that doesn't yet require a crown

Why use inlays, onlays or overlays?

These types of dental restorations are modern alternatives to fillings. Unlike conventional fillings, ceramic inlay, onlay and overlay fillings only need to be replaced very rarely, and the high-quality material blends harmoniously into the patient's smile.

  • The main advantages relative to other methods include:
  • Durability
  • Sturdiness
  • Aesthetics
  • Made-to-measure fit

For overlays, less tooth substance needs to be removed than when using a crown. Your dentist will decide which method is best depending on the specifics of your case.

How much do dental inlays costs in Switzerland?

The costs vary depending on the material used. In Switzerland they average at around CHF 1,200 and up.

Inlays, overlays and onlays at bestsmile

All bestsmile crowns, Veneers, inlays, onlays and overlays are made in our own facilities in Switzerland. Inlays, onlays and overlays can be added to your Aligner or Veneers treatment starting at CHF 1,200. Our expert dental team will be happy to advise you further.

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What are inlays, onlays and overlays made of?

Conventional fillings usually consist of composite, amalgam or medical cement. They are often not sufficient for correcting medium or large defects. The back teeth in particular are exposed to a lot of pressure from chewing, so you need to select a filling that is robust and solid. Dental restorations made from ceramic are good choices in these cases.

Like other fillings, they can consist of various materials. The most common are:

  • Gold
  • Ceramic
  • Dental composite

Gold inlays, onlays and overlays

Gold has been used in dentistry for decades and is one of the most extensively researched materials. Gold is a tried and tested metal for inlays, onlays, overlays and other kinds of dental fillings. Because of its flashy appearance, it is primarily used for the back teeth.

Advantages of gold inlays, onlays and overlays:

  • Durability
  • Very good fit
  • Biocompatible
  • Very robust

Disadvantages of gold inlays, onlays and overlays:

  • Expensive
  • Highly visible
  • Can conduct cold and heat

Ceramic inlays, onlays and overlays

Patients are increasingly prioritising the discreetness and aesthetics of their dental corrections. In these cases, ceramic is an excellent alternative to gold.

Advantages of ceramic inlays, onlays and overlays

  • Can be matched to the colour of the teeth
  • Excellent aesthetics
  • Robust
  • Natural material
  • Don't conduct heat or cold

Disadvantages of ceramic inlays, onlays and overlays

  • Complex to produce

Dental composite inlays, onlays and overlays

Inlays, onlays and overlays can also be made of composite, which is inexpensive but usually doesn't last long. It's also only recommended to use composite for smaller defects.

Advantages of composite inlays, onlays and overlays

  • Inexpensive
  • Aesthetically acceptable results

Disadvantages of composite inlays, onlays and overlays

  • Can become discoloured over time
  • Not suitable for bigger fillings

At bestsmile we exclusively use high-quality ceramic to produce our dental inlays, onlays and overlays..

When should inlays, onlays or overlays be used?

  • Inlays are used to repair smaller defects that don't involve the entire top of the tooth.
  • Onlays are placed over the entire top of the tooth, providing it with additional stability.
  • Overlays also cover the area connected to the neighbouring teeth; they are the most extensive kind of dental filling and are considered to be a precursor to crowns.
Inlay, Onlay or Overlay

Conventional fillings vs. inlays

  Conventional fillings Inlays
  • Inexpensive
  • Only requires 1 appointment
  • Long-lasting
  • Matched to the patient's tooth colour
  • Robust
  • Can become discoloured over time
  • Not suitable for bigger areas
  • More expensive
  • Requires at least 2 appointments

Less durable

Lifelong, depending on care/maintenance

It is recommended to use inlays especially if the damage to the tooth is so great that a conventional filling wouldn't provide lasting protection. Because they are much more robust, inlays are particularly well suited to correct damage to the side teeth.

Overlays vs. crowns

  Crowns Overlays
  • Can fix a variety of dental defects
  • Long-lasting
  • Matched to the patient's tooth colour
  • Long-lasting
  • Matched to the patient's tooth colour
  • Tooth needs slightly less preparation
  • Tooth needs slightly more preparation
  • Higher costs
  • Only possible if there is still enough healthy tooth substance

Lifelong depending on care/maintenance

Lifelong depending on care/maintenance

Overlay or crown

Your dentist will decide whether a crown or an overlay is more suited to your situation. The main factor is how much healthy tooth substance is left. At bestsmile, we produce both overlays and crowns from high-quality ceramic to your exact measurements.

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How long do inlays, onlays and overlays last?

Ceramic fillings of this type usually last anywhere from 10 years to an entire lifetime. Unlike conventional fillings, they rarely fall out and don't have to be constantly replaced.

Good oral hygiene is essential for making sure your dental restorations last as long as possible. If the patient doesn't brush their teeth enough, they will develop cavities – for instance under the inlay, which can then fall out.

Treatment procedure with inlays, onlays and overlays

The procedure for applying inlays, onlays and overlays is the same.

  1. First the cavities or damaged areas are removed from the tooth in question – this is where the infamous dental drill comes into play. The removal process leaves empty space in the tooth that has to be refilled.

  2. Before application, the tooth is prepared so that the dental replacement can be properly put in place. A digital print is made of the prepared tooth; this acts as a template for the model. The data is then sent to a lab where dental technicians produce the ceramic components made to measure.

  3. Just like in Veneers treatment, a temporary piece is fitted until the custom ceramic piece is ready to apply. The actual dental restoration is applied during the second appointment. Inlays, onlays and overlays are attached using dental cement, which is applied as a liquid and then hardens in place.


wafer-thin ceramic shells


Last update: 06.07.2023


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