Crowns and onlays are laboratory fabricated restorations that are made to restore and protect teeth that can’t be fixed with fillings, either because there was too much decay or there is too much tooth structure missing. Simply put, fillings have limitations. They just “ fill in” that part of the tooth that Is missing, but they don’t necessarily strengthen or protect the teeth from the forces generated during chewing.
In cases where there has been extensive loss of tooth structure, we often recommend a crown or an onlay, the difference being that an onlay covers just the biting surface of the tooth while the margins of a crown extend all the way to the gum line. Obviously, the crown is a more extensive restoration and involves the removal of more tooth structure. Onlays are typically preferred where the damage to the tooth is more minimal and restoration doesn’t require the removal of as much tooth structure for retention.
Both crowns and onlays can be made of different materials including gold, porcelain fused to various metals and a whole host of tooth colored ceramic materials, depending on the competing needs for strength and esthetics. The goal, of course, is to restore the normal anatomy and esthetics of the tooth so that it can function properly in the mouth.
Either restoration can last for many years if cared for properly. That means practicing excellent oral hygiene and regular visits to the dental office to prevent problems such as tooth decay and gum disease, which can threaten the longevity of any dental restoration.
So, which is best? It just depends on your individual situation. We’ll help you make that decision if the necessity arises. It’s a little like going to the ice cream store- chocolate, vanilla, etc. It’s not that one’s right and the other wrong. You’re still getting your ice cream!
If you have questions, please ask us about any of these issues the next time you are in the office or in the meantime, you can contact me or the staff at my office, Dr. Laurence Stone in Doylestown, PA.