Inlays are a type of filling, originally developed at a time when conventional filling materials, which could be pressed directly into a hole in a tooth, were unavailable.
They went out of fashion with the arrival of modern dental materials but have seen a return to popularity with modern porcelains and zirconia. Stronger than materials pressed into the tooth directly, they are used when other filling materials fracture or if the fine detail and natural look of porcelain or zirconia is preferred. Inlays are custom made for each tooth they are placed in.
No two inlays are the same. They are normally cast or milled to the specific shape required at a dental laboratory. Typically, there are two stages to the fabrication of an inlay. The first stage is to prepare the tooth for the inlay, which involves the numbing and removing of tooth tissue and any decay present. An impression of the tooth is then taken and a temporary filler is placed.
The second stage takes place a week later and involves numbing the tooth to remove the temporary filling, then checking the fit and colour of the new inlay before finally cementing it in place.
The inlay is stronger than any filling material however, it will never be as robust as a healthy tooth. The strength of the inlay comes from the strength of the underlying tooth tissue and, as this has been compromised, the longevity of an inlay is therefore not as good as a natural healthy tooth.
Inlays come in a range of materials, gold, porcelain and zirconia. Your dentist is the best person to discuss the suitability of each material.
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