Crowns vs. Onlays - What You Should Know

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One question that patrons of a cosmetic dental clinic get a lot is whether it is recommended that a patient get a crown or an onlay. With each patient that gets cosmetic dentistry near Houston, TX, the decision to get a crown or onlay is different and dependent on individual oral health and situation. Here is a brief explanation of what each is and when to get what.

Degree of Damage

It used to be that a patient that had a significant structural problem with a tooth was likely going to get a crown. Now, a partial crown or onlay is a possibility in some instances.


With a crown, a dentist shapes the tooth to resemble an upside-down paper cup. A mold is taken of the mouth and a crown is created. The crown is then glued onto the shaved tooth. There were downsides.

First, the crown required sacrificing healthy tooth structure in order to give the crown an area to gain purchase. It also tended to go down to the gumline, which could be irritating and occasionally caused recession. Finally, there was always the risk of aggravating the tooth’s nerve center during shaving, which could be excruciatingly painful. In the most extreme cases, the penetration could cause a root canal.

Partial Crown or Onlay

Your average cosmetic dental center in Houston, TX, has witnessed significant changes and improvements in the dentistry industry. Two areas that have seen significant development are with tooth materials and adhesives. This is where the partial crown or onlay comes in.

The partial crown or onlay, as the name implies is not a full-blown crown. With a partial crown, the tooth is left as is and a mold is taken. A partial crown is constructed and then it is affixed to the damaged tooth with a super strong adhesive. The onlay only fixes the part of the tooth that has degraded. A full crown is not needed and neither is it required that the tooth is ground down to a nub.


Another development is the technology involved to formulate the crown. The portion of the crown that is created is done so by using CAD / CAM programs. The partial crown mold is put into the software and technicians recreate it, filling in the appropriate areas of the partial crown to create an enhancement that fills the entire tooth. It is then fabricated yielding a customized partial crown for the patient.

Downsides of the partial crown include that it can be more vulnerable to fracturing and breaking off. It is uncommon, but can happen. If it does, the appropriate step is to replace it.

How to Choose

The easiest way to choose is to answer two questions:

Is it more important to you to have a longer lasting solution? If the answer is “yes,” then you want to go with a full crown.

Are you okay with having a minimally invasive procedure that saves the remaining tooth and only provides a partial cover in order to preserve the original tooth? If the answer is “yes” to that, then the answer is to go with a partial crown.

Regardless of what you choose as you get cosmetic dentistry near Houston, TX, know that once the full or partial crown is in place, your mouth will be almost exactly the way it was before the tooth decay or fracture.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.

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