An inlay is a laboratory fabricated prosthetic that fits inside a tooth, looking much like a puzzle piece; inlays should last as long as a crown, when properly placed and cared for, also looking exactly like a natural tooth when completed.
There is no metal in todays inlays, as the zirconia, alumina and pressed porcelain is very strong and mimics the look of your existing teeth.
Inlays are used when a filling is going to be too large, causing the potential for fracture. Inlays are also used if a patient does not want to replace a larger filling as often, as inlays are made with a more durable material and are bonded to the tooth for a long service life. When inlays are done properly, and with proper continued homecare that includes daily brushing and flossing, an inlay should last 15-30 years.
Inlays look exactly like real teeth, in many cases even better, as they look like they are brand new teeth; all a single color with perfect cusps, fossae and contours. Inlays can close spaces between teeth, where food gets impacted, they can also restore a brighter smile to mouths that have large amalgam (AKA: mercury) fillings.
Inlays are precision oriented; precision takes a bit of time, so expect your appointment to not be rushed and be done correctly the first time. Dr. Hoffman is a perfectionist when it comes to creating the proper inlay preparation.
This is because part of making an inlay look and feel correct involves a dental laboratory, who performs their work based on principles of material science. Inlay preparations must have certain reductions and shapes (AKA: Internal Morphology) in certain specific locations, which allow the materials to possess the proper strength to last the full life-expectancy, also for the shade and shape of the inlay to properly mimic a natural tooth.
Inlays do not get cavities, but the margin, or area where the inlay meets the tooth can get cavities. Actually, this area is the area that most commonly fails on an inlay tooth. There are two ways to combat this phenomenon: 1. Have the inlay fit correctly at the time of placement 2. Make sure proper flossing and brushing is done around the inlay nightly.
Inlays take 2 visits to complete. The first visit is the actual removal of the damage and/or cavities and the preparation of the tooth for the inlay. This is also where the impression is taken for the lab, and when your temporary inlay is fabricated. The second visit is to permanently deliver your new inlay; this visit only takes about 30-minutes or so. Before your new inlay is permanently delivered to you, all parties must be completely happy. You must be happy with the color (shade), shape and bite, and Dr. Hoffman must be happy with the x-ray, the margins, the interproximal contacts, and the bite. Once everyone thinks things are "perfect", Dr. Hoffman will ask your permission to permanently deliver your new inlay.