The natural beauty, durability, and function of conservative, computer-aided onlays

At the practice of Sanjay Dhir, DDS in San Diego, California, we emphasize conservative dentistry. Dental treatments and care characterized as “conservative” involve minimal alteration of the natural tooth structure. In this manner, a maximum amount of the natural, healthy tooth is preserved when treating damage or decay. 

Dental onlay restorations represent a common and attractive way to resolve damage or trauma that cannot be adequately treated with common fillings or dental inlays. Likewise, the damage addressed with the dental onlay is less extensive than the amount of tooth structure typically restored with a full-coverage dental crown. For this reason, onlays are often referred to as “partial crowns.” 

The process

The onlay involves replacing damaged tooth structures with durable metal or non-metal materials such as ceramics and gold. The material is shaped to precisely replace portions of the tooth lost due to decay or breakage. It is bonded or fixed securely to a “prepared” natural tooth structure, and the tooth is prepared by removing damaged or diseased tissue. Onlays can also be used to replace worn or large fillings. Large fillings often do not have adequate structure to properly support the tooth over the long haul, making them vulnerable to fractures and infections. Onlays differ from either more conservative inlays or more invasive crowns in that they replace or cover the chewing surface of the tooth and at least one cusp, the tip or point of the tooth.

The power of onlays at our office 

Dr. Dhir uses computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD-CAM) technologies to prepare, plan, make, and place dental restorations in-house. While this system is commonly associated with dental crowns, we can also use it to fabricate dental onlays and other types of replacement tooth structures. 

Our highly-trained and skilled onsite technician renders accurate onlays using information collected with advanced optical “scans” rather than traditional, messy impressions. Conventional impressions are often cumbersome, time-consuming, and inaccurate due to the risk of human error. By using sophisticated software and tech tools, we eliminate the human element. Our high-tech approach to restorative treatments is precise and allows for the optimal quality control that ultimately leads to the strongest, most natural-looking onlays and crowns. These characteristics contribute to our patients’ satisfaction with their improved teeth!

Additionally, you can trust our experience with Emax crowns and onlays. After all, we have made thousands of first-rate restorations by using this process over the last six-plus years. Experience what so many of our patients have already benefited from CAD-CAM partial crowns (onlays) at our practice. Call (858) 358-5801 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Dhir.



The damage onlays can address is normally less extensive than that which can be restored with full-coverage dental crowns. The CAD-CAM technology many dentists, including Dr. Dhir use, in their offices to prepare, plan, design, and place dental onlays is also the same procedure used to make crowns. Thus, onlays are referred to as ‘partial crowns’.


If proper dental hygiene measures and guidelines are followed, onlays can typically last from 20 to 30 years. Some factors that can affect the longevity of onlays are:

  • Type of material used 
  • Location of the affected tooth
  • Level of oral hygiene
  • The daily force inflicted on the tooth 
  • Condition of the nerves inside the tooth

There may be slight pain when the tooth is being prepared for the procedure. However, this can be completely and satisfactorily addressed with a local anesthetic. Post-procedural pain is relatively rare and can usually be managed with over-the-counter painkillers.


There may be slight discomfort immediately following the onlay procedure, but most people quickly adjust to this situation and the new chewing surfaces. The surrounding tissue may feel sore, or the tooth may temporarily be sensitive to cold or hot foods, but these won’t pose major problems and should resolve within a day or two.


If you have suffered too much tooth damage or decay to be treated with a filling but not enough to necessitate a crown, you may be an ideal candidate for a dental onlay. Speak to Dr. Dhir to determine whether an onlay is the solution for you.