Dental crowns cover and protect damaged teeth. They restore function, as well as the shape and size of the natural tooth. Crowns are used over teeth that need more treatment than just a filling.
They are also used when someone breaks or cracks their tooth or to protect a weakened natural tooth from breaking.
They’re more protective than veneers, which only cover the front of the underlying tooth and provide cosmetic improvement.
Crowns are semi-permanent. They don’t last forever, but they can last for a long time if you take care of them properly. Most last for several years, but this can be longer or shorter based on a variety of factors.
What should you know about the average lifespan of a dental crown, and what can you do to ensure your crowns last as long as possible?
Factors that Affect How Long Crowns Last
Several factors affect the lifespan of a dental crown, including:
The material and material quality of a crown impact how long it lasts. Materials used to make crowns include:
- Metal alloys
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM)
As long as the materials used in the construction of any of these crowns are high-quality, the crown will last a long time.
Just as you can protect your natural teeth from decay, you can do so too with a crown. The better you care for your oral health and the health of your tooth crown, the better.
Good oral hygiene includes regular brushing, flossing, water picking, and rinsing with mouthwash to prevent plaque buildup.
An important part of good oral hygiene is eating a healthy diet that doesn’t present a high risk to your oral health. Frequent consumption of acidic foods or sugary foods and drinks poses more of a risk than a diet low in sugar.
You probably don’t give much thought to your bite force unless it’s causing a problem for you. However, the force with which you bite, as well as your tendency to grind or clench your teeth, puts wear and tear on your crown.
It’s also riskier for your natural teeth. A night guard is a helpful tool for anyone who tends to grind or clench their teeth while sleeping. Also, keep in mind that you don’t want to use your teeth as a tool to open bottles, etc.
Finally, you’ll want to ensure you’re seeing your dentist often enough to maintain your oral health. Keeping up with dental checkups is a great way to extend the life of your crowns.
Your dentist should know exactly how to prep the affected tooth before applying the crown. They’ll take a scan of the tooth, preferably with a digital scanner, and send that scan a way to make a permanent crown.
The better your dentist is at creating an accurate scan and the better the crown maker is at constructing the crown, the better it will feel in your mouth and the longer it will last.
Health of Your Natural Tooth
When you have a relatively healthy tooth (it’s not entirely healthy, or you wouldn’t need the crown), the crown is likely to last longer.
The same is true for the roots and the tissue surrounding the affected tooth. The better shape the tooth, bone, and gum are in when the crown is installed, the less likely you are to eventually need extraction and the longer your crown will be functional.
A few specific things you can do to protect your dental crowns include:
- Brush your teeth two times a day with a soft-bristled brush
- Floss daily
- Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash
- Limit consumption of sugary, sticky, and acidic foods
- Avoid chewing on hard objects, including ice
Specific Types of Crowns and Their Lifespan
Now that you understand in general how to care for your crown, let’s consider the average lifespan for each of the different types of crowns.
Zirconia crowns, which is also a type of ceramic crown, lasts about 10 to 15 years. This can be extended by caring for the crown. Zirconia is the strongest non-metallic material available for making crowns.
Unfortunately, a zirconia crown sometimes doesn’t fit as well as some of the other options. However, they have the least risk of splitting or cracking.
A PFM crown is a popular choice because they are so natural-looking. Most people choose this option for the replacement of the teeth in the front of the mouth.
Unfortunately, this type of porcelain crown is prone to chipping, and the metal margin can show as the gum recedes over time. These porcelain dental crowns typically last about five to 15 years.
This type of crown is made from a lithium glass-ceramic material and silicone. They can be made in-office, which means you won’t need to wait as long for your crown to be made, and this makes them ideal for dental emergencies.
Most of the time, placement is complete in one office visit. Lithium disilicate is a great option for a tooth crown because it’s adjustable, strong, fits well, bonds well to teeth, and is cosmetically appealing. This type of crown lasts about five to 15 years.
Gold has been used for crowns for more than a century. It’s strong, resists chipping, and fits well to the tooth. Most gold dental crowns last at least 10 years or more.
The downside of this type of crown is that it doesn’t look natural. It’s made of gold, and the colour is gold, so you probably don’t want to use them for the teeth that are most visible in your mouth – unless your goal is to show off a gold tooth, of course.
Gold crowns can be pricey, but the gold is usually mixed with another metal to reduce the overall cost of the crown.
How Can You Tell When It’s Time to Replace a Crown?
Hopefully, depending on your age when you receive a crown, you’ll never need to concern yourself with when one needs replacing. However, you can tell it’s time to replace an existing crown if you:
- See evidence of decay
- Have an exam and/or X-rays show signs of decay or damage
- See open margins or a gap between the crown and tooth
- Notice the crown is broken
- See the space between the crown and adjacent teeth
- Experience pain
- Feel instability or see the crown moving
- Notice the tooth no longer looks good