How Long Does A Crown Last?

Many people who were told they needed a crown to fix a tooth have wondered how long will that dental crown will last. The lifespan of a dental crown can range anywhere from  5-30 years, in some cases they have even lasted a lifetime. That is quite a range in the potential lifespan of a crown. My experience dictates that a crown should last at least 20 years. Should the crown fail, a new crown can replace it with the ultimate goal of keeping that tooth in your mouth until the end of your life. Keeping that tooth in your head is my definition of a successful restoration.

How do crowns fail?

How long does a crown last?
Ceramic Dental Crown

One way of a crown failing is when it breaks. Crowns are usually made out of ceramics which are essentially glass.  If stressed in just the right way they can fracture. Another failure is the breakdown of the tooth beyond the edge of the crown. This can be caused by decay or stress of the tooth. Crowns usually break down at the margin of the restoration. This is where there is a seam between the tooth and crown. Bacteria can make their way into this seam and cause breakdown. When decay starts it can sometimes be patched if it is in an accessible area. If you can keep food and plaque from sitting at the margin you can prevent decay from starting. Daily brushing, flossing and regular check ups at your dental office can help preserve the crown and catch any breakdown at an early stage.  By doing all of the should keep you out of trouble.

The keys to a long-lasting crown

It is the dentists responsibility to make sure you get a crown that can potentially last a lifetime. Having adequate tooth structure and having margins that are cleanable are two of the most important factors. The fit of the crown is extremely important. Margins that are well adapted to the tooth will help ensure a crown will be problem free for many years to come. The skill of the dentist and the quality of the laboratory used can combine to achieve a great result.

Alternatives to crowns

Ceramic Dental Onlay
Ceramic Dental Onlay

Today there are great alternatives to dental crowns. Bonded ceramic onlays can be used to restore teeth that in the past were crowned. These onlays can even be done on teeth that previously had root canal treatment. The benefit of an onlay is that good tooth structure is not sacrificed for the sake of the restoration. The sides of the tooth can be retained. The procedure is the same as a crown. Impressions are taken of the tooth and the laboratory makes the restoration which fits into your tooth like a puzzle piece. It is the design that is different. The cost is also the same as a crown.

There are even times that bonded composite filling can be used to restore broken down teeth. This is a less costly procedure, but there is an increased risk of failure as bonded fillings are not as strong as laboratory made restorations.

New materials and procedures in crown fabrication

Using newest technology crowns today are better than ever! Space age ceramics like Zirconia are stronger and more fracture resistant. They can and even bond to a tooth structure. Nowadays impressions can be taken using cameras with 3D technology.  This 3D technology creates super accurate representations of the teeth for the lab to make restorations. The benefit to you is no goopy impression material. Restorations are then designed on a computer screen and then sent to a milling machine to make your new restoration out of a block of ceramic. When these are delivered to you they are bonded to the tooth. The fit of these restorations is truly incredible.

So-How Long Does a Crown Last?

What is the answer to the question, "how long does a crown last?" The best answer is it that it lasts longer when effort is put into making it and maintaining it.  When done well that new crown you get today has the potential to last a lifetime. One of the biggest factors in how long your crown will last is related to seeing a skilled dentist who really cares about you. Realizing that a crown is not always the best option is important for both the dentist and the patient. I often believe that the least amount of dentistry is the best dentistry. Preserving tooth structure is always at the top of my list. Just because your insurance will cover the cost of a crown does not mean that it is the best choice. Recently I had a new patient report to me that her previous dentist encouraged her to replace a 5 year old crown because her insurance will cover it again. Wow! Not a reason to replace for my patients. My motto is "Don't fix it if it's not broke."   Always learn your options and please have dentistry done for you, not to you.

For a related post on "How Long Should a Composite Fillings Last" Click Here

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