Dental Onlays – An Alternative to Crowns?

April 15, 2019

What is an Onlay?

Dental OnlayAn onlay is an indirect restoration – meaning it’s made completely outside of the mouth, custom fit to the area it’s replacing. This differentiates it from fillings, or direct restorations (built up inside the mouth using composite). It replaces multiple surfaces of a tooth, including at least one cusp.  Onlays in our office are made from a strong porcelain material as opposed to plastic composite material used for fillings.

When are onlays necessary?

Onlays, sometimes referred to as partial crowns, are indicated when there’s enough tooth left that a full crown is unnecessary, but a filling wouldn’t give as much added strength as the tooth needs. It’s a great conservative procedure, respecting the natural tooth that’s left while using the strength of the ceramic material to reinforce it.

We most commonly recommend onlays for functional purposes on the back teeth (molars and premolars), i.e. to strengthen a tooth weakened by decay or cracks. Perhaps the best selling point of onlays is their longevity – you can expect to get up to 20 years from an onlay, where a comparable filling would only last you 8-10.

Should I get an onlay or a crown?

If you and your dentist have caught your decay/issue early enough, you might not need a full crown! An onlay is a great alternative to crowns when there is sufficient natural tooth left to support it.

What can I expect after an onlay procedure?

The recovery process is much like a filling or a crown – potentially some mild sensitivity or soreness for up to 6 weeks. As with any restoration, it’s important to contact your dentist immediately if anything feels off with your bite so they can make adjustments!