Partial Crown vs. Full Crown: What Should I Choose?

different races showing their white teeth

When it comes to dental crowns, you may have heard the terms "partial crown" and "full crown." Both words are thrown a lot around and people often get confused about their differences. It's understandable, as both options are unique.

To let you save time and find answers on the internet, we’ll break down the key differences between partial and full crowns. Hopefully, it will help you determine which option will suit your needs.

Keep reading to know more.

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When are crowns necessary?

Dental crowns are necessary when your tooth suffers from the following conditions:

Advanced tooth decay

It is a severe form of decay that has progressed to the point where a significant portion of the tooth's structure has been damaged or destroyed. This can include the erosion of the tooth's enamel and dentin (the layers of the tooth beneath the enamel), as well as the exposure of the tooth's pulp (the soft tissue containing nerves and blood vessels) to bacteria and infection.

Weakened structure

A weak tooth refers to a tooth that is structurally compromised and at risk of breaking or becoming damaged. This happens due to advanced decay, injury, trauma, grinding or clenching, and gum disease. A person with a weak tooth may also feel more sensitive and have a higher fracture risk.

Severe damage

Major tooth damage is substantial damage to a tooth requiring more than a routine dental filling. This issue can include advanced decay, severe trauma or injury, and cracks or fractures that extend into the pulp or root of the tooth. One example is an abscess or severe damage resulting from bacteria reaching the pulp of your teeth. 

inlay onlay crown

What is a full crown?

Let's say you have been experiencing tooth pain and sensitivity, and upon visiting your dentist, it was discovered that you have a large cavity that has reached your tooth's nerve. To save your tooth, a root canal procedure may be needed. 

After this treatment, your tooth structure might not withstand the normal chewing force, for it is hollow on the inside. Therefore, your dentist will use a dental cap to protect and conceal the hollowed area and prevent it from further damage. In this procedure, your dentist will modify your tooth to a particular shape where they can put the cap—a dental device like a snug hat for your tooth, also known as a full crown.

What is a partial crown?

With today’s modern dental procedures, a damaged tooth can now be restored without altering most of its structure. Dentists call this case a partial crown treatment or a scenario where a simple filling is insufficient or a full crown isn’t necessary to restore a heavily decayed tooth. 

Inlay and onlay

A small tooth-colored filling can generally help repair a small cavity, but the opposite may not apply to larger ones. Nevertheless, a so-called indirect filling may be recommended by your dentist. They call it an inlay or onlay.

An inlay fills the cavities and hollows in the tooth in the areas between the cusps (a hard eminence on a tooth that emerges from the surface of which the tooth bites). It will create the inlays using an imprint of the affected areas of the tooth and send it to the laboratory.

On the other hand, an onlay not only fills the tooth space but also a larger area, such as cusps. 

In other words, both inlays and onlays work similarly like crowns, except they do not cover the entire surface of the tooth.

One known benefit of a partial crown is how durable and long-lasting it can be. An inlay or onlay, for example, can last for 7 to 8 years and may even extend up to 10 years, depending on your oral hygiene and dental care.

dental bonding done

What tooth crown should I get?

Knowing what tooth crown to get typically depends on the following factors:

  • The reason behind the crown – is it for cosmetic or restorative purposes?
  • Cost – dental crown costs for cosmetic purposes are often not covered by insurance. So, it’s important to consult your dentist and insurance company about what is in your plan and what is not.
  • The severity or extent of damage – a severely damaged tooth often requires a full crown, while a tooth with mild to moderate damage only needs a partial crown. 

Both options provide long-term durability and stability for the affected tooth To get the most out of your choice, it’s important to take advice from your dentist.  

If you’re looking for a top-notch prosthodontist in Culver City, visit Culver City Dentist United Dental Care. 


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