What Is A Partial Crown? Is It A Viable Option For Me?

You’ve got some pain in a tooth and you’re heading to the dentist with the idea that a crown may be needed. You’re worried about the overall cost and look of your teeth when all is said and done. Then your dentist mentions the possibility of only doing a partial crown and you’re interested because it’s faster and cheaper.

What Is A Partial Crown And How Does It Differ From A Full Crown?

A crown refers to a cap used on a damaged tooth. While a full crown will generally cover the entire exposed tooth, a partial crown (also called an onlay) covers only a portion of the tooth.

Many of us have had fillings for cavities acquired in our teeth as kids. Think of partial crowns as the middle-point between fillings and full crowns.

What Is The Advantage Of A Partial Crown?

A partial crown, as suggested by the name only covers a small part of the damaged teeth, as opposed to covering the whole thing. It’s what makes them appear realistic compared to other options.

The reason the porcelain, partial-crown option is revered by many patients is due to its ability to preserve the teeth appearance. It manages to do so with ease compared to the other materials. It’s also much cheaper and will require less work in your mouth.

As such, a partial crown assists to enhance the happiness and long-term comfort of a patient. The Onlay is often used when a patient needs to cover a largely damaged or decayed portion of their teeth. People turn to partial crowns and full crowns when their teeth are so badly damaged that opting to have a filling done wouldn’t help to close the available gap.

You have to note that the crown is designed to cover the whole tooth. In this case, the healthy or undamaged sections of your teeth will need to be ground down to make it possible for the tooth to fit within the crown’s cap. Often, this process doesn’t lead to too much tooth loss as a large part of your tooth will be requiring replacement.

Why Are Crowns Needed?

A crown can be as subtle or as obvious as you would prefer. Patients get to choose between metallic coverings such as gold and tooth-colored ceramic. You have total control over the smile you will end with.
Getting a dental crown comes with numerous benefits to the patients:

Protect the Pearly Whites from Getting Damaged

That small crack appearing on your tooth can easily progress into a bigger and more painful issue with time. Just think about the pressure and amount of work that the teeth get to handle daily. Early decay signs or the minor cracks already present can soon begin to get worse. At times, this can occur after undergoing a root canal or filling procedure, where proper protection isn’t accorded to your tooth.

Get a Beautiful Smile

With dental crowns, you never have to worry about hiding your beautiful smile ever again. Get to flash that amazing smile every time you are out in public gatherings. Partial and full crowns assist your teeth to appear healthy, even after they have experienced extensive fracture or decay.

They can correct crookedness, teeth misshapen, cracks, staining, and many other tooth-related problems. As previously mentioned, a partial crown ensures that an individual has control over their overall smile.

Manage Dental Discomfort

Teeth that have become weak will eventually start to cause a lot of pain. Even small cracks or chips can leave behind sharp edges which could cause damage to your mouth, cheeks, or gums.

Decaying or broken teeth can also complicate the chewing process. Remember that chewing is among the most important tasks performed by your teeth. Getting a dental crown will assist to fortify the teeth allowing them to focus on their other tasks.

Teeth may become weak after having a root canal or any other extensive dental procedure. This is because the root canal will involve altering the structure of your tooth. Installing the crown will act to reinforce the procedure by helping to protect against future damage.

Why A Partial Crown Would Be a Good Choice Over a Full Crown

Dental crowns have become popular to the extent that many individuals already know what their purpose is and why they may need to get them. Nonetheless, unless you recently had a crown placed on your teeth, it may not be possible to realize just how much the crowns available today can achieve. The same applies to the available choices.

Using A Full Crown to Completely Cover the Tooth

Full dental crowns tend to be more common compared to the other available type. It’s a crown that is intended to cover the whole tooth that requires some restoration. Complete or full crowns are intended to imitate the shape and natural size of your existing tooth crown. For this reason, it can assist in restoring the function, strength, and health of your tooth.

Using a Partial Crown to Minimize Treatment

The reason for having a dental crown is to assist in restoring the integrity and strength of your tooth. Often, this doesn’t require having the whole crown capped. Rather, the dentist may recommend that you have a partial crown as opposed to having to modify the structure of the tooth to facilitate the complete restoration.

Partial crowns, which are in some cases known as onlays or inlays provide tooth preservation and optimal restoration by offering highly personalized treatment. Partial crowns are favored as they provide conservative results for a bigger array of tooth-related concerns. Your treatment is, therefore, optimized by enabling you to preserve a bigger portion of your natural tooth structure.

Additionally, partial crowns don’t cover the whole tooth, which means that they don’t require lots of preparation. This, in turn, assists to maximize the natural integrity and strength of your tooth.

How Much Do Partial Crowns Cost?

Now that you have an idea of the difference between a full crown and a partial crown, and the reasons why you may need it, you may be wondering about the costs involved. The reality is that the costs will vary depending on the level of preparation involved and the material used for the partial crown.


Generally, the cost of getting a full crown can range from $500 to $2000, and in some cases even higher. How much you pay for the procedure will be dependent on whether you have an insurance policy. The policy must explicitly cover the fees charged by the dentist. Another factor that can influence the cost is the number of procedures required to complete treatment.

A partial crown will likely run anywhere between $300-$1,000 depending on the material you choose for your onlay.

Of importance to note is that porcelain crowns tend to be costlier compared to metal crowns. Additionally, the dentist may need to perform a core build-up for use in protecting the tooth’s integrity before installing the crown.


At times, a dentist may also need to perform minor surgery or a gingivectomy procedure where they get to cut away part of the gum to provide a better prognosis for the affected tooth. The costs are likely to double when a root canal is performed. Often, this occurs in the worst-case scenario.

How Long Do Partial Crowns Last?

On average, a partial crown can last for between five and fifteen years, according to WebMD. However, if you have ever been told that you have a habit of clenching or grinding your teeth, you can expect the lifespan of your partial crown to become much shorter.

Your eating habits, as well as the oral hygiene habits you maintain, will greatly influence its lifespan.


Using a night guard and practicing acceptable oral hygiene habits will assist in extending its lifespan. The crown placement may also prove to be an important determining factor as far as its lifespan is concerned. Some will last for many years as pointed out above while others may experience some cracks after a while and require urgent replacement.


A properly cared for dental crown can last for between ten and thirty years. Many insurance policies will allow the policyholder to get a crown replacement every 5 to 8 years.

What Are the Risks of a Partial Crown Vs a Full Crown?

Complications are common with many medical procedures, and dental crowns are no exception. Despite the numerous advances made in the tech and medical industries, not many dental procedures may last for a lifetime. Potential risks include:

Pain, Sensitivity, And Discomfort

It’s not uncommon for some patients to report experiencing discomfort or pain after having a restoration procedure performed. While the kind of pain described is likely to vary from patient to patient, it’s likely to be one of the following:

  • Sensitivity to air
  • Toothache or sharp pain
  • Tenderness when biting
  • Pain when biting
  • Sensitivity or pain in tissues or gums


Crown Detachment

The partial crown may in some cases fall off from the teeth where it had been placed. Detachment can be caused by various reasons such as:

  • Too much pressure from biting down on food or hard materials
  • Washing away of the dental cement causing the crown to loosen
  • The extended duration that the crown has been in place

What Is the Procedure for A Partial Crown?

Traditionally, you are required to make two visits to the dental office to have the partial crown installed. In the first appointment, the dentist will perform an examination intended to confirm that the tooth is capable of holding the partial crown. He or she will then file the tooth in preparation for the crown.

Once filed to the desired shape, a tooth impression will need to be taken and then sent to the lab. The end of your first crown will occur when the dentist places a temporary crown on the tooth to provide protection as you wait for the permanent one to be completed.

Your second visit will begin with the removal of the temporary crown to facilitate the placement of the permanent partial crown. A special adhesive is used to place it in the correct position. Ensure you ask any questions you may have about its care before leaving the practitioner’s office.

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