Ceramic dental restorative materials offer an esthetic alternative to dental amalgam or gold. There is uncertainty relative to the longevity of ceramic inlay restorations. Recently published long-term research studies reveal general clinical performance trends. These trends are discussed while presenting a ceramic inlay case. Successful clinical use of ceramic inlay materials is absolutely dependent on the creation of an uncompromised adhesive tooth/ceramic interface. Ceramic inlay restorations perform well in terms of long-term retention, color match, and anatomic contour stability. These restorations all experience limited margin deterioration that does not predispose to marginal discoloration or secondary caries. Patients rarely suffer from postoperative sensitivity secondary to ceramic inlay placement. Ceramic inlays fail predominantly as a result of crack propagation from material flaws leading to bulk fracture. Some superficial ceramic defects may be repaired with composite resin. Internal material flaws are minimized by industrial production of indirect pressable glass-ceramic materials or ceramic blocks designed for computer-aided design/computer-assisted manufacturing (CAD/CAM). External surface flaws are limited by careful polishing techniques. Strategic placement of ceramic inlays in teeth that are not subject to heavy occlusal loading will result in more predictable long-term performance. Preparation design to prevent flexure of ceramic inlay materials is essential. CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE Use of ceramic inlays to restore defects in posterior teeth requires careful attention to detail. Placement of ceramic inlay materials in high-stress areas may result in less predictable long-term performance. Ceramic inlays are advantageous for restoring moderately sized defects when optimal control of restoration contours and esthetics is desired.
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