When a patient finds out they need a dental crown, they typically want to know if it will hurt, how much it will cost, and what it will look like. Another important thing to consider is how long dental crowns last.
No one wants to go through the time and trouble of having to replace a dental crown. Plus, at an average cost between $800 and $1800, it makes sense from a financial standpoint to get something that will last a long time.
How long dental crowns last depends mainly on the type of material used. Most have a lifespan between 5 and 15 years. With proper care, however, a crown can last for decades. In most cases, they can stay in indefinitely unless and until there is a problem.
What Are Crowns and Why Are They Necessary?
A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cover that goes over a tooth. Its most common use is after a root canal procedure. A root canal involves hollowing out a tooth to remove infection and decay. The crown seals off the remaining tooth from further damage while adding stability.
A crown might also be cosmetic, covering unsightly chips, cracks, or stains. Dentists also use them on healthy teeth to anchor dental bridges when teeth are missing.
Today’s technology allows dentists to fabricate crowns so that they follow the shape and contours of a real tooth. To the patient, they feel natural. And most of the materials used can be tinted to look just like the real thing too.
Choosing Your Crown Material for Crowns That Last
In general, the more expensive the material, the longer dental crowns last… but that is not always the case. There are other factors besides cost that might make a certain material less desirable for some patients. And dentists might have recommendations for a specific material they feel would be best in a particular situation.
Here are the various materials used for dental crowns in order of their durability:
Gold crowns are the most durable, but also cost more than other options. They can last for several decades if taken care of. The most notable drawback is their color. There is no hiding a gold crown, unless it is on a back molar.
Porcelain on Metal
These crowns have a metal base coated with porcelain. The metal makes them very durable, often lasting past the 10-year mark. But the porcelain exterior, while real looking, can wear down or chip. The structure of the crown might still be intact, but traces of the metal might show through in these spots. Like gold, this might not be a big deal for a molar, but it could be very noticeable on a front tooth.
Porcelain or ceramic dental crowns last about 10 years on average. Their color makes them look the most like real teeth, but they are more prone to chipping and cracking than metal. New, harder varieties of porcelain and ceramic are being developed. Zirconia, for example, is proving to be stronger and longer lasting than traditional porcelain. As it becomes more widely used, zirconia will be a good option for molars that must withstand heavy chewing.
Dentists use composite resin for dental fillings, and the same material is also molded to form crowns. Resin is the least expensive material, but also the least durable. Under the right conditions, resin crowns can last a decade or more. But when used on a molar, the material might not be able to withstand the wear and tear as effectively as other options.
Although we have mentioned the durability of metal crowns, stainless steel is useful only as a temporary option. A dentist or endodontist might attach a stainless steel crown after an emergency root canal procedure to protect the tooth until a permanent crown is ready. They are only intended to remain in place for a few weeks. Stainless steel is also used to cap decayed baby teeth in young children. These can last a few years until the permanent teeth come in.
Other Factors that Determine How Long Your Dental Crowns Last
Patients should look for the best value for a dental crown, comparing the cost and durability of each option. But there is more to consider.
The crown’s location can make a big difference. Patients often want the most natural-looking option for front teeth. Molars are less visible, but take the brunt of heavy chewing. So resin might last a long time on the canines or incisors, but porcelain or porcelain on metal might be better for the molars.
Quality of construction is another factor to consider. A poorly made crown might not match the shape of the original tooth, causing a misaligned bite. This could result in teeth rubbing together where they normally would not, wearing down or even cracking the crown. To combat this, find a skilled provider with a lot of experience in crown fabrication. Start by using our online search tool to find dental professionals in your area.
Good dental hygiene is not just good for teeth but for crowns too. Regular brushing and flossing will help prevent additional cavities that could make future crowns necessary. Routine dental checkups allow the dentist to keep an eye on how the crowns are holding up and act quickly when it is time to replace a dental crown.
Things that Can Shorten the Life of a Crown
Bruxism (teeth grinding) can put extra pressure on crowns, especially on the molars. In many cases, a mouthguard will help, not only with the longevity of a crown but by protecting all of the teeth.
Bad habits like chewing on ice, biting fingernails, or using the teeth as a tool to tear or pry things open should be avoided. They can crack or chip a porcelain crown or even loosen or dislodge any type, especially as it ages.
Just as good oral care can benefit the patient, neglecting it can affect how long crowns last. It is possible to get a cavity under a crown. Not taking care of one’s teeth can allow bacteria to grow on neighboring teeth and at the edges of a crown. When this happens, the dentist will usually need to replace a dental crown.
Not every failed crown is the patient’s fault. If a crown is not placed properly, or if infected tissue is not completely removed during a root canal procedure, there could be problems. Both can result in pain and additional tooth decay. There is often no other option than to replace a dental crown.
Signs It’s Time to Replace a Dental Crown
Some signs that a crown needs attention are feeling that it is loose or moving, especially while eating. Chips and breaks might be felt by the tongue and pain is always an indicator that something might be wrong. And of course, if the crown falls off completely, contact a dentist right away.
With proper care, crowns of any material will last around 10 years, and most hold up well for much longer. Regular dental appointments give the dentist a chance to assess their condition. They will recommend replacement when it is necessary.