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Quality Dentistry: How Long Do Dental Crowns or Caps Last and Can They Get Cavities Under Them?

Quality Dentistry: How Long Do Dental Crowns or Caps Last and Can They Get Cavities Under Them?

Providing long-lasting dentistry that looks good and feels good has always been a priority for me. When my patients had treatment in our office, like a crown or a cap the dental work would still be going strong 20 or more years later. I was very proud of that. All of my meticulous attention to details and quality was paying off.

And then, something started to happen. It started slowly, but became a trend. When patients were coming in for their routine exams I began to find that the margins or edges around these older crowns were not sealed microscopically. How could this happen? The crowns were still in great shape.

I realized that the problem was with the cement that is used to hold the crowns on teeth and seal out bacteria. The crowns were doing great, the cement – not so much. Cements that were used in the past are susceptible to being worn away by the digestive acids in the mouth. It takes a long time, but is something to be aware of. Everything can look and feel good from the outside, while cavity bacteria is sneaking in and starting new cavities underneath the crown. This is not good news. Even though it wasn’t my work that was failing, I felt bad for my patients.

The truth is – insurance companies will usually pay for new crowns every 5 years. Crowns that are made well, with quality materials, in a fairly healthy mouth can last much longer. Crowns don’t self-destruct at the 5 year mark. However, I learned that instead of being proud of how long my work is lasting, it might be good to replace my patient’s crowns when they get 10-15 years old. I consistently find cavities under these older crowns. The cements that are used now are better than the ones that are failing, but we won’t know for a long time how long they will truly last.

There is something important to think about here. If you may be retiring or losing dental benefits and have old crowns, you might want to have your dentist remake your dental treatment so you are in good shape for the years to come. You don’t want a lot of dental needs in retirement. I usually recommend my patients with several crowns allow about 4 years for this process due to the yearly maximum benefits of most insurance plans. We often do one quarter of the mouth each year. This maximizes the insurance and keeps your out of pocket expenses down.

My hope is that this information helps you take care of yourself. Whether you are planning to retire or just aware that some of your dental work might be getting old, I encourage you to talk to your dentist. Being proactive may save you a lot of time, inconvenience, and money.