When we’re placing your dental crown, we might refer to the final restoration as your “permanent” crown. This isn’t meant to be taken literally, because dental crowns just can’t be permanent, but are designed to be very long-lasting. With proper maintenance, many of them may last the rest of your life, but that can’t be guaranteed.
Your Teeth Were “Permanent”
Before you get too concerned about this issue, it’s important to remember that your adult teeth were described as “permanent,” too. That was to distinguish them from the teeth that are designed to be lost, your “baby” or deciduous teeth. And, these days, more and more people are managing to make their teeth permanent.
But despite the fact that our teeth are amazing structures with a complex arrangement that allows them to be both hard and flexible, your teeth fail. And it’s not just our sugar cravings or tendency to skip flossing that’s to blame. Even in the absence of these factors, many teeth will simply wear out as a result of the repeated stresses of chewing.
It’s the lack of permanence in our teeth that makes dental crowns (and dental implants) necessary at all.
Dental Crowns Are Better Than Teeth in Some Ways
There are some ways that your dental crowns will actually be better than your natural teeth. One way is that they’re actually stronger than your natural teeth. Modern dental ceramics are much, much stronger than your natural tooth enamel. But they don’t have your tooth’s ability to crack and flex and “self-repair.” So when a dental crown cracks, it’s broken, and is considered failing.
Unlike your natural teeth, dental crowns are relatively immune to attack by acids in foods and beverages. They can’t develop cavities the way your natural teeth do.
But underneath the dental crown is a natural tooth. And that tooth is still vulnerable to decay. It’s often common for a crown to fail because the natural tooth underneath it has decayed. Sometimes the old crown can be removed, the decay removed, and a new crown placed. Other times, though, the tooth will have to be removed and replaced with a dental implant.
How to Make Your Crowns Last
So, if they’re not permanent, how long can you expect your dental crown to last? At a minimum, a dental crown should last five or six years. However, quality crowns that are properly placed and maintained can last for decades.
What makes the difference? Several factors play in.
Your Dentist: Some dentists do a better job at placing dental crowns than others. Proper placement of dental crowns protects them from adverse stresses. This not only protects the crowned tooth, but also the tooth that opposes the dental crown (remember, your crown may be stronger than your natural teeth, so it can cause a natural tooth to wear down).
The Crown: There are many different varieties of crowns, and some of them are more durable than others. Unfortunately, crowns aren’t rated like tires–we can’t promise you’ll get a specific number of chews out of a particular crown. But we can educate you on the different materials and how we’ve seen those materials perform in our other patients so you can get a good idea about what you can expect. And remember, there are always tradeoffs: “cheap” and “quick” rarely go along with durable and attractive.
The Maintenance: Proper treatment of your dental crown will extend its lifespan. Avoid exposing your dental crown to adverse stresses caused by crushing ice, cracking nuts, opening bottles, or otherwise using your teeth as tools.
Ensuring you perform proper oral hygiene can help protect the teeth and gums that support the dental crown and can extend the life of your crown and your tooth. This includes regular checkups and professional cleanings.