Cambuslang Practice 0141 641 2107
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Cambuslang Practice 0141 641 2107
Glasgow Practice 0141 427 0296
Article written by on 9 January 2013

How long will this last?

When making the investment to have a crown or veneer placed a very common question that many dentists get asked is, “how long will this last?”

A dental colleague of mine in the USA has written an amusing answer to this much-asked question….

So there I sit, next to my patient. I’ve removed their temporary crown and I am getting ready to place our beautiful new porcelain crown. It’s finely adjusted and exquisitely polished. We’re ready to rock and roll. Then… the question.

“Doc, how long is this crown going to last?”
“How long do you think it should last?” I ask
“I don’t know. For as much as it costs it should probably last forever!”

I’ve had some variation of this conversation many times before. I’m asking the patient to spend a bunch of money for the work I’m placing. Why shouldn’t it last forever? Or at least a really long time?

In a perfect world, the dentistry I place will last forever. In this same perfect world you wouldn’t have to change the oil in your car. Or replace your roof. Or change the filter in your furnace. Or mow your lawn.

Actually, the crown we just placed would love to switch places with your roof. The conditions that your roof has to put up with are a cake walk compared to your crown. A little snow, wind and rain and some gradual temperature changes?Pfffft. Nothing to it!

Lets do the math.

Lets say you chew each bite of food 10 times before you swallow it. (A very conservative estimate, but it makes the math easier). Then lets say that each meal you have has about 20 bites.

You just used that crown 200 times while you ate lunch. Multiply that by 3 meals and you’re working on 600 times per day. If you don’t eat snacks. And don’t even get me started on chewing gum!

So yeah, you use your teeth for chewing a lot. But most restorations will handle everyday chewing pretty handily. Leaving out the Un-popped popcorn, and olive pits, chewing isn’t the real problem. The real problem is the environment that we’re placing this crown in.

  • Your new crown will have to tolerate temperatures ranging from 80 to 100 degrees C (hot coffee) to -4 to 0 degrees C (ice cream). Sometimes within seconds of each other
  • Most crown will have to tolerate acid attacks throughout the day
  • Your crown will constantly be covered with bacteria
  • Many crowns will find their owners grinding their teeth throughout the night while they are sleeping
  • Some crowns will need to resist bad habits of their owners like ice chewing and lemon sucking

The bottom line is, the mouth is a pretty tough place for this beautiful new crown to have to survive. What is a realistic estimate for a crown or a filling to hold up? The unsatisfying answer: it really depends. In a person who avoids sweets and soda, who take exquisite care of their mouth (brushing and flossing), who doesn’t take any medications that might dry their mouth, who doesn’t grind their teeth at night and sees a dentist regularly in an effort to catch problems while they are still small… you could easily see a restoration last for 15 – 20 years or longer. Regular wear and tear, even in the most “low risk” patients will probably do in any dental work placed if you live long enough

How can you make your dental work last as long as possible?

  • Brush 2-3x a day and floss once a day
  • Chew sugarless gum after meals to stimulate saliva flow
  • Drink lots of water
  • Avoid sugary foods and reduce between meal snacking
  • Keep up with regular dental appointments. At least twice a year and more if you have risk factors like taking medications or having conditions that create a dry mouth
  • If you have problems, get to the dentist for treatment right away

So back to my conversation with my patient.

“Doc, how long is this crown going to last?”
“How long do you think it should last?” I ask
“I don’t know. For as much as it costs it should probably last forever!”
“The only way I know how to make this crown last for that long is to store it in a box in a really safe place.”
“Um. Ok. Lets just put it on the tooth and I’ll try to take care of it.”
“Alrighty then.”
(courtesy of Mead Family Dental)

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