Unless you have some kind of amazing genetics, everyone will need some kind of work done on their teeth eventually. If you’re lucky, the most work you’ll need is cosmetic and minor. The unfortunate ones will need more extensive procedures like a root canal.

Dental onlays and crowns are two ways a dentist can treat a broken tooth. However, they both serve the same purpose in very different ways. Whether you get an only or a dental crown also depends on the state of your tooth.

Here’s the difference between onlays and dental crowns, and which one is better for your needs.

Dental Onlays vs Crowns

A dental onlay is a type of restoration that covers the cusp of the tooth as a single piece. It’s most commonly used when a tooth suffers minor damage on the surface. In contrast, a dental inlay involves filling in a cavity that extends past the surface of the tooth.

While a dental onlay covers the top of a tooth, a crown extends further down to the gums. A crown involves removing most of the outer tooth layer and completely covering what’s left. It is often seen as a replacement for a tooth without completely removing it.

When Are Onlays Better Than Crowns?

If you chip your tooth, your dentist has the option of polishing out the rough edge, using a tooth-colored composite resin or applying a dental onlay. The goal with a chipped tooth is to restore the visual appearance and its normal functionality. Dental onlays only repair damage on the cusp or the elevated part of your tooth.

However, a tooth may suffer worse damage than something purely cosmetic. If a crack extends down towards the gums or you have a bad infection, your dentist may need to apply a crown.

Factoring in Other Costs

With damage to your tooth’s cusp, the most a dentist may need to do before applying an onlay is smooth out the surface. It serves the same purpose as an inlay, so you won’t need both. However, crowns are rarely that easy.

In some cases, your dentist will need to completely remove most of your broken tooth before they apply the crown. While you don’t always need a root canal before you get a crown, it’s not uncommon to require both.

If the damage to your tooth extends past the gum line, you may require a crown lengthening procedure. This procedure involves cutting away part of your gum line around the tooth so that the crown can extend far enough past the damaged portion.

Repairing a Broken Smile

Minor damage to the cusp of your tooth may not seem like a dental emergency, but it can quickly develop into something more severe. It may also be a sign of some problem with your bite or an issue with the tooth itself.

If you’re in need of dental onlays or some other procedure, Dr. Parul Mehta and Associates can help. Our office offers award-winning family and cosmetic dentistry in the Temecula and Riverside areas. Contact us to learn more and request an appointment.