Many people ask me what seems to be a very simple question which is “How long do crowns last?”
This is actually a complex issue as there are many factors that affect how long a crown will be serviceable in any one person’s mouth. A crown basically is a prosthetic device that surrounds and protects a single tooth that has been damaged by decay, breakage or extensive fillings done over time. Crowns, just like natural teeth, require maintenance, repair or replacement at some point. They almost never last a lifetime just as your natural teeth may not. Crowns are after all bio-mechanical devices that are under constant pressures and are exposed to everything that enters your mouth day after day, year after year. Crowns can fail in many ways. They can get decay underneath or they can break or just come off repeatedly, indicating replacement is imminent. Also a crown’s life can be extended if proper measures are taken.
Here is a rather complete list of factors that affect how long a crown will last.
- The condition the tooth was in prior to having the crown made. Crowns on badly damaged teeth will definitely not hold up as long as those on teeth that are less damaged to begin with.
A person’s diet and habits are a big factor for crown life.
- A person’s oral hygiene. How well you take care of your teeth is a big factor.
- Clenching and grinding habits. Crowns will have a shorter life in people’s mouths that habitually clench or grind their teeth. Regular wear of a Night guard will actually extend the life of a crown.
Regular professional cleanings are important for removing plaque accumulations where the crown joins the natural tooth that will shorten a crown’s lifespan.
- Regular examinations to detect early problems with a crown that may be remedied before the crown fails. Surprisingly, most people do not know when they are getting a formal dental exam.
Skill of the dental practitioner or operator. Surprising but very true.
- Quality of the lab that is used. Crowns are usually made in a separate facility called a dental lab by licensed operators called Certified Dental Technicians. Your dentist selects the lab and the materials to be used and hopefully scrutinizes the end result.
- The materials used. Crowns are made from many, many dental materials available. Your dentist generally chooses the materials he or she is most comfortable with and what they feel is best in your situation. Not enough can be said about this here.
- Short vs. longer teeth. Taller teeth tend to retain crowns longer than very short teeth. This and the way your dental practitioner prepares the tooth for a crown are factors in a crowns life.
- Front vs. back teeth. Back teeth tend to be under more stress and loads than front teeth so in general crowns on back teeth need to be replaced more often than those on front teeth.
- The cement that is used. The dental cement used to retain a crown in place is very specialized and is not used for any other purpose. The type and quality of the cement are factors in keeping the crown from coming out.
By Dr. M. Scrydloff