What Is the Average Lifespan for Dental Crowns?

Crowns are an investment in the health of your mouth and the brilliance of your smile. These permanent dental implants are meant to last for a very long time — but how long exactly can you expect them to endure? Would veneers be a better choice? What can you do to ensure that your crowns last as long as possible? In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.  

What is the purpose of a crown? 

Crowns are fairly simple to understand: They’re essentially tooth-shaped caps that fit over weak or damaged teeth. Sometimes they’re also used to shore up a bridge or protect a tooth after a particularly extensive root canal. They can also support a tooth that’s had to receive a significant filling, which can weaken the natural tooth. In short, dental crowns exist as a prosthetic that’s primarily intended to minimize the chance of tooth damage. However, some also serve an aesthetic function. Implant crowns can fully replace missing teeth. 

Example of a dental crown on a Prosthetic

What to know about different types of crowns and their longevity 

The typical dental crown lifespan is extremely variable and depends on many factors, not the least of which is the material it’s made out of. In general, most crowns last anywhere from 3 to 15 years, although (again) that time frame can vary. Consider the following information about material types and the way in which they impact how long a crown will last: 

  • Metal Crowns: These are some of the oldest crowns, and they offer a decent lifespan at anywhere from 3 to 15 years. Wondering how long does a gold crown last? They may last even longer; some people manage to keep crowns made out of precious metal for their entire lives. However, these sorts of crowns are typically considered to be unsightly, and few dentists use them anymore.  
  • Ceramic Crowns: Ceramic (or porcelain) crowns offer the same durability and lifespan as metal crowns, and they look much more natural. Still, these crowns are significantly more expensive than metal and run a greater risk of breaking. 
  • Metal & Ceramic Crowns: Some dentists offer ceramic crowns that are fused to metal, splitting the difference (so to speak) between more traditional dental work. They fall somewhere between metal and ceramic in terms of both cost and appearance, but they typically leave a noticeable dark spot near the gum line. They’re not significantly stronger than ceramic crowns. 
  • Zirconia Crowns: Zirconia has many medical uses, including as part of surgical implants due to its impressive biocompatibility. (It’s related to cubic zirconia, the well-known “fake diamond” material, but it’s put to a much different use!) They are incredibly natural looking and durable. In some cases, they can last for a lifetime! The downside, though, is that they are the most expensive type of crown.

Do crowns last longer than veneers? 

While veneers fulfill some of the same purposes as those of the dental crown procedure, they’re really an entirely different thing. Crowns are essentially model teeth that are intended to reproduce the entire surface of a tooth. They can be placed anywhere within a mouth and are intended to be more or less permanent. 

Not so veneers. They’re essentially thin, little pieces of tooth-colored material that slip over your front teeth — and only your front teeth. They strictly exist for cosmetic reasons and won’t do anything to strengthen weak or damaged teeth. However, they do a better job at looking like natural teeth than most crowns do. (While most crowns are as realistic as they’ve ever been, some dental crown problems include staining and lack of response to whitening treatments.) 

What’s more, veneers may last slightly longer than crowns. Most estimates say their useful life ranges from 7 to 15 years. So, if your concern is strictly cosmetic, veneers may help you achieve more of your goals for a longer period of time. 

Diagram of dental implant, crown and veneer

How will you know when a crown needs to be replaced? 

We’ve answered the question, “How long should a dental crown last?” But that raises another one: “How do you know when a crown needs to be replaced?” Fortunately, that’s a question that can be easily answered, because the signs of an old crown are anything but subtle.  

  • One of the biggest signs that you need a new crown is pain. A well-placed crown will entirely protect your tooth, shielding it from things like cold, heat, and bacteria. If you’re experiencing sensitivity or noticing tenderness and swelling, your crown is no longer doing its job. 
  • Obvious chipping or cracking is another indication that your crown is at the end of its useful life. This indicates that your dental crown has lost its structural integrity. Obvious damage means it’s time for a new one. 
  • Similarly, deterioration in the crown’s appearance should set off mental alarms. Cosmetics are far from the only reason to get a crown. However, when crowns begin to look bad, they may soon suffer functional failures as well. 
  • When you chew, you want to feel your food moving within your mouth — not your teeth. A slipping sensation around your crown can very well mean that it’s coming loose. Your dentist may be able to repair it, but don’t be surprised if you need a new one. A related indication that your crown might have started to shift is a change in your bite. 
  • Finally, receding gums can serve as a warning that your crown is improperly placed and causing a buildup of bacteria. Know though, that this may simply owe to poor hygiene. Brush, floss, and have regular cleanings just to make sure something else isn’t the culprit.  

What can affect the lifespan of a crown? 

In addition to the materials used to make your crown or crowns, specific behavioral patterns can impact their effective life. The good news is that you have control over them — but you need to know what they are first! If you want your crown to last as long as possible, make sure you do the following: 

  • Perform adequate oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and having regular professional cleanings 
  • Practice healthy daily eating habits, such as minimizing overly sugary or hard foods 
  • Avoid clenching or grinding your teeth 
  • Avoid biting your fingernails 
  • Avoid chewing ice 
  • Avoid using your teeth to open packaging  

How Can I Extend the Lifespan of my Crown? 

You don’t have to simply avoid certain activities to lengthen the life of your crown. You can take positive steps to avoid damage and decay, such as: 

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice per day 
  • Using fluoride toothpaste 
  • Rinsing your mouth with an alcohol-free, therapeutic mouth rinse 
  • Practicing daily flossing 
  • Limiting your sugar intake 
  • Staying away from extra sticky snacks and hard candy 
  • Avoiding tobacco products 
  • Avoiding acidic drinks (i.e., sodas and juices) 
  • Visiting your dentist annually (or as recommended) for checkups and cleanings 
  • Practicing good oral hygiene habits 
  • Wearing a protective night guard if you have the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth during sleep 

Westend Dental is the perfect practice for anyone looking to get new crowns or to deal with old ones. For nearly three decades, we’ve provided top-tier, patient-focused care. Get in touch with us today to learn more about crowns.