How Long Should a Crown Last?
We get this question all the time. We understand that for most people a crown is not an insignificant expense, so it’s only natural to want to know how long this investment will continue to function. About a week ago, a member of my extended family who lives out of state contacted me with this question because his dentist was cementing a new crown in his mouth and told him that he should expect to need the crown replaced in about 8 years. I’m always concerned when I hear comments such as this because I feel like planning the timeline for the failure of a crown or filling the moment it is placed ignores many factors that should be considered and potentially takes some factors into account that should be ignored. Here are a few factors that play into how long a crown should last:
It goes without saying that the fit of a crown will play a significant part in how long it will last. If a crown does not fit properly due to excessive space between the crown and the adjacent tooth or because of gaps between the tooth and the crown, we end up with very small areas that trap plaque and bacteria around the crown and adjacent teeth. This can lead to gum inflammation and potentially tooth decay at the junction where the crown and the tooth meet. Tooth decay at the margin of a crown is the primary reason why a crown needs to be replaced. Additionally, the material that the crown is made of can play a part in how long a crown lasts as well. Certain types of dental ceramics are stronger and more well-suited for use on the molars, while other types of ceramics are less strong yet more esthetically pleasing and are therefore more well-suited for use on the front teeth where esthetics are of greater concern and chewing forces are not as significant. Your dentist should choose an appropriate material for your specific situation and should make sure your tooth is shaped correctly for that specific type of ceramic.
Of course the dentist is not the only person involved in determining the longevity of your new crown. First of all, oral hygiene & diet plays a tremendous role in how long your crown will last. A person with excellent oral hygiene who maintains their oral health well and a healthy diet low in sugars and acidic foods can keep a crown in service for decades. On the flip side, a patient with poor oral hygiene and a poor diet high in sugary and acidic foods and beverages can destroy a crown very quickly (within 12-24 months). Oral habits can play a significant role in the lifespan of a crown as well. Patients who grind their teeth, have sleep apnea, who bite their fingernails, chew on ice, etc. can do a lot of damage to their teeth, and this holds true for their dental work as well. Most crowns, while very strong, can break if enough force is applied over a long enough time in the right way. Many patients would benefit from a custom-fabricated mouth-guard to wear at night to prevent this type of damage from occurring.
Most dental insurances have a ‘replacement period’ on dental work, meaning that replacing a crown will not be covered if it was done recently. For crowns, this is typically 7 years (some insurance plans are longer, a very few shorter). While we are sensitive to the financial impact that dental treatment has on our patients, just because an insurance company will cover (a portion of) a new crown does not mean that the crown needs to be replaced. Crowns only need to be replaced when there is a legitimate problem with them, not because some ambiguous clock in an insurance company’s shiny building ticks over a certain time.
The Bottom Line
So how long should a crown last? Well the answer obviously is that it depends on a variety of factors. Assuming your dentist did a great job with his part of the procedure, if you take good care of your new crown and maintain it well it should be with you for many years to come. Of course, if you neglect to take care of your new crown, you may find it requiring replacement much earlier than you would like.
Have questions? Give us a call and come see what makes our office different! We would be happy to show you our on-site lab and how we go about making beautiful & well-fitting crowns that can blend in with your own natural teeth. Stop in and see what our patients in Southport, Homecroft, and Greenwood are smiling about!
The crowns featured on this page were made for an actual patient by Dr. Shank in our on-site lab. Photo published with the patient's permission.