Inlays are indirectly fabricated dental restorations for the repair of chipped or decayed teeth. Indirect fabrication means that the tooth is prepared for the inlay, an impression (mold) of the prepared tooth is made and poured in dental stone, and the restoration for the tooth is made in a laboratory on the stone replica rather than the tooth itself. The inlay is then glued (luted) into the tooth, generally at a separate appointment. Inlays can be made from composite resin, gold and other metals, or various ceramic materials.
Inlays are typically prescribed when it will be difficult to restore a tooth to its proper shape and re-establish proper contacts with the adjacent teeth. Less tooth structure is removed than would be necessary for crowns or onlays. Inlays are very similar to fillings, except that they’re usually made in a lab, which adds to the cost and complexity of the procedure.
Some dental offices use Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology to create restorations like inlays, onlays, and crowns right in the dental office. This avoids the need for a temporary restoration and a second appointment to place the restoration. While more convenient for the patient, dental CAD/CAM can often not produce the same results that a dentist working with a dental lab can produce. You dentist will likely prefer one method over the other – and some dentists may use both solutions.