Dental inlays are a restorative dental treatment used to repair teeth affected by decay or other damage.

They are made of a high-quality material, such as porcelain or composite, and are used to replace portions of teeth that have been lost due to decay or fractures.

Dental inlays are a popular alternative to regular dental fillings because they offer greater strength and superior aesthetics. In this article, we will discuss dental inlays, including their types, benefits and drawbacks, and how they are made and applied.

Types of dental inlays

There are two main types of dental inlays: full dental inlays and partial dental inlays. Full dental inlays cover the entire chewing surface of the tooth, while partial dental inlays cover only portions of the tooth. Both types of dental inlays are made of a high-quality material such as zirconia, porcelain or composite.

Benefits of dental inlays

Dental inlays offer several benefits over regular dental fillings. Because they are made of a stronger material, dental inlays offer greater durability and resistance to wear and fracture.

In addition, dental inlays are more aesthetically pleasing than regular dental fillings because they can be made to match the natural color of your teeth.

Dental inlays also offer greater safety than regular dental fillings because they reduce the risk of secondary caries.

Loss of dental hard substance can be due to carious, bacterial and non-carious causes, the latter being chemical, mechanical or as a result of occlusal overload.

Each of these factors that cause destruction of enamel and later dentin have a predilection for certain surfaces and treatment options are individualized according to the clinical case.

One of the treatment options for loss of substance affecting occlusal surfaces can be achieved by means of inlays.

These are indirect restorations (micro prostheses) that restore the negative relief, i.e. the grooves present on the tooth surfaces.

In their design, the indirect method requires the involvement of the dental laboratory.

It is not a treatment that extends over many sessions, usually requiring two.

After removing the caries and preparing the resulting cavity, with the help of an impression sent to the technician, the technician reshapes the occlusal details and sends the resulting piece back to the dentist, who will glue it with adhesives.


Replacing traditional composite or amalgam fillings with inlays are the following:

  • Correct restoration of grooves and fissures on the occlusal surface

  • The adaptation to the edges of the cavity is superior because it is made watertight thanks to micro protection.

  • Strength is increased. Being a prosthetic piece, it is more resistant to occlusal stress.

Among the disadvantages of this technique, we can mention the need to go to the dental surgery at least twice, once for the preparation of the cavity and the second time for the bonding of the prosthetic piece sent by the technician. The cost price is also slightly higher than a filling that is done in one session, directly by the dentist.

Depending on the material from which they are made, inlays can be metallic or physiognomic.

Metal inlays are rarely used today because patients tend to prefer aesthetic results, with a color similar to that of the natural tooth.

Although metal is unsightly, it is much more durable than an inlay made entirely of physiognomic materials.

Of the physiognomic materials, ceramic or zirconia inlays are used for inlays.

The indications for inlays are as follows:

Reconstruction of teeth affected by caries in terms of morphology and function

  • Support elements for bridges of reduced extension

  • Immobilization of periodontal teeth. Inlays can bond teeth with mobility. This ensures that they remain in the arch for longer.

  • Restoring occlusion, the patient is able to use his teeth again for chewing

In addition to the indications for inlays, there are a number of situations where it is preferable to replace this treatment option with another, and here we are talking about times when the longevity of inlays cannot be guaranteed.

  • Marked predisposition to caries: patients with a low saliva flow or a caries-promoting diet are not ideal candidates for this type of restoration.

  • Poor oral hygiene

  • Patients with bruxism: bruxism is the grinding, particularly strong rubbing movement of the teeth against each other, which can uncover micro protection.

  • Teeth with periodontal disease: for forms of periodontal disease in which the mobility of teeth is reduced, inlay treatment may be instituted for bonding. If, however, the teeth have a high degree of mobility, inlay treatment is no longer a solution and is not effective.

  • Young patients under 18 years of age: being a prosthetic piece, more tooth substance is sacrificed to prepare the cavity for the inlay than for a direct filling. Young people have a larger pulp chamber than adults and tissue exploration can more easily lead to sensitivity or even opening of the chamber in young people.

Disadvantages of dental inlays

Dental inlays have several disadvantages, including the higher cost and time required to make and apply them.

In addition, the process of making dental inlays may require more visits to the dentist’s office than regular dental fillings.

Also, applying dental inlays can be more complicated than applying regular dental fillings because more healthy teeth may need to be removed to make room for the inlay.

The process of making dental inlays

The process of making dental inlays begins with a thorough examination of your teeth and gums to assess the overall condition of your teeth and determine if dental inlays are an appropriate treatment option. If necessary, x-rays may be taken to identify any underlying problems.

After the initial evaluation, a preparation of the teeth to make room for the dental inlay will be done.

This involves removing a portion of the teeth to make room for the inlay. The teeth are then shaped to fit the dental inlay that will be made in the dental laboratory.

Once the teeth are prepared, an impression of the teeth is taken to create a mock-up of the dental inlay to be made. The mock-up is sent to the dental laboratory, where the final porcelain or composite dental inlay will be made.

This part of the process can take several weeks, during which time the patient may wear a temporary inlay.

Once the final dental inlay is completed in the lab, it will be tested to ensure that it fits the patient’s teeth perfectly. If necessary, the inlay can be adjusted to ensure a perfect fit. Then, the dental inlay is applied with special adhesive and light-treated to ensure it bonds properly to the teeth.


Dental inlays are a popular restorative dental treatment option to repair teeth affected by decay or other damage. They offer greater strength and superior aesthetics than regular dental fillings, but they also have some drawbacks, such as higher cost and the time it takes to make and apply them. Overall, dental inlays are an effective and durable treatment to restore the health and appearance of damaged teeth.

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