Dental crowns are commonly used in restorative treatments to save a tooth. They’re helpful in situations where a tooth has been heavily damaged due to decay and regular filling is not enough due to a lack of healthy tooth structure. Not only does a crown add strength to a tooth, it can also correct bite misalignments and protect a tooth after root canal treatment. There are also patients who opt for dental crowns purely for cosmetic purposes i.e. to correct teeth that are stained, too small or misshaped.
Factors that determine how long a dental crown lasts
While dental crowns today are extremely strong and durable, they are not likely to last an entire lifetime. On average, most dental crowns last between 5-15 years before needing to be replaced or repaired. This duration appears rather vast and vague because the longevity of dental crowns depends on a few factors, including:
- Location of the tooth
- Condition of the original tooth
- Pressure and harmful habits on the crowned tooth from grinding, clenching or chewing on hard objects
- Oral hygiene
- Material of the crown used (gold crowns are the strongest but may not be aesthetically pleasing due to their metallic golden appearance. The next best option in terms of strength, durability and aesthetic appearance would be porcelain crowns or zirconia crowns)
- Skill of the dentist/installation of the crown
- Manufacture of the crown
- Periodontal health like gum disease
- Full or partial crown
- External trauma due to accidents
Based on the list above, there are many factors that go into the longevity of dental crowns, which explains the 5-15 year estimation many dentists give. However, studies show that when used for the right dental problems and installed properly by an experienced dentist, dental crowns can last for decades or even longer. This includes crowns that are manufactured well with the appropriate materials and cared for diligently by the patient.
A 2013 study that tracked the success rate of over 2,300 crowns installed by the same specialist showed that 97% of those crowns lasted over a decade, and 85% lasted for 25 years. This goes to show that ceteris paribus, with proper crown materials, manufacturing, professional care and oral hygiene, the chances of long-term success is very high.
How to tell if your dental crown needs to be replaced
In some cases, it will be obvious that the patient needs their dental crown replaced because it has either fallen out or suffered extensive damage. However, there are instances where it is less obvious there are problems with a crown. Usually, there will be a few symptoms or indicators. It is important not to ignore them as doing so could cause pain, discomfort and even dental issues down the road.
These instances include:
Your bite doesn’t seem normal or feels “off”
When your crown is first put on, your bite should feel normal. If over time your bite changes or starts to feel uneven, then it’s probably a sign that your crown is wearing off and needs to be adjusted or replaced.
Your gums around the crowned tooth are receding
If you notice receding gums around your crowned tooth, it could mean that the crown was not placed properly or that you have gum disease and need to seek treatment with your dentist.
Your crown has been around for many years
Usually, crowns that are older than five years are more likely to run into issues due to wear and tear. It is recommended to have your crowns checked at least twice a year by your dentist to make sure everything is functioning properly.
You experience pain
Porcelain crowns or porcelain fused-to-metal crowns can sometimes suffer external damage due to everyday use or pressure by bruxism. When dental crowns chip or crack, the underlying tooth may be exposed, causing pain, tenderness or swelling. Once this happens, it is imperative to fix the crown as soon as possible to protect the underlying tooth. Depending on the damage, the crown can be easily repaired with some quick buffing or total replacement.
Once a crown falls out, your dentist can re-cement it back, but it will need to be replaced at some point. Apart from choosing an experienced and knowledgeable dentist, it is up to you to take care of your dental crowns through proper lifestyle and oral hygiene habits.
- Walton T. R. (2013). The up to 25-year survival and clinical performance of 2,340 high gold-based metal-ceramic single crowns. The International journal of prosthodontics, 26(2), 151–160. https://doi.org/10.11607/ijp.3136
- Li, R., Wang, Y., Hu, M., Wang, Y., Xv, Y., Liu, Y., & Sun, Y. (2019). Strength and Adaptation of Stereolithography-Fabricated Zirconia Dental Crowns: An In Vitro Study. The International journal of prosthodontics, 32(5), 439–443. https://doi.org/10.11607/ijp.6262