Dear Dr. H,
I am having a new crown done after the first one failed. I only had the crown 6 years! How long is dental work supposed to last?
Dear Annoyed,
I understand your frustration. We, as dentists, need to give patients more information on what they can expect from dental work.
I am going to use the car example for this question. Let’s say you buy a new car. You have an expectation as to how long that car will last before you buy a new one. That expectation depends on a number of factors:
1. The quality of the car. A Honda is expected to last about 200,000 miles, but a Kia will only last 163,000.
This means the quality of your dental work makes a difference! The dentist has control over this part. So please don’t get upset when we send crowns back to the lab or redo something! Most dentists want to do quality work and they take pride in their work. Choose a dentist that you trust, pay them a fair fee, and allow them to do their best.
2. The way you take care of the car. A car will last longer if you change the oil regularly and do the maintenance at the prescribed intervals.
This means you must brush and floss twice a day and get regular cleanings to maintain your dental work.
3. The way you drive your car makes a difference in how long it lasts. A car that is driven by a little old lady who never drives it anywhere but to the grocery store and church will last much longer than a car that is driven by an 18 year old that speeds and goes “off roading”.
This means people who grind their teeth, drink soda regularly, and/or chew on ice will wear their dental work out faster than people who don’t do those things.
4. Taking care of small problems before they become big problems will lengthen how long a car lasts. A car will last longer if you find out why it is leaking oil and fix the problem rather than waiting for the engine to blow up.
This means if your teeth suddenly become sensitive to cold or a crown feels loose, you go have it checked out rather than waiting until an expensive problem develops.
I hope I helped you figure out why the crown only lasted 6 years. BTW, that is not a terrible length of time. Keep in mind that even your dental insurance company will cover for the replacement of a crown every five years. My personal goal is to make sure my work lasts as long as possible. However, I only have control over the quality of the work I put in – the rest is up to the patient.
Dr. H

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