If you've got damaged teeth or you're suffering from tooth decay, it's crucial that you act as swiftly as possible to address the issue so that it doesn't develop into something more serious. Damage and decay aren't just uncomfortable and unsightly; they're often precursors to infection.
Bonding and fillings can address minor instances of tooth damage or cavities, but a dental crown is likely the better option when the damage or decay is significant. Dental crowns can help restore your smile and protect your natural tooth structure without the need for invasive surgery.
But just like many other dental procedures, dental crowns are not free, even if you've got dental insurance. Saving your tooth is well worth it, but it will require you to save up some money.
Check out this comprehensive dental crown guide for a complete rundown of how much dental crowns cost — with or without dental insurance — as well as some useful information regarding crowns.
What Is a Dental Crown?
Dental crowns are a restorative dental procedure and a form of cosmetic dentistry. The procedure seeks to preserve the remaining structure of the tooth and protect oral health after one of your permanent teeth has experienced damage or severe decay.
The dental crown is a prosthetic cap designed to look like a natural tooth. Crowns cover the tooth in order to restore form and function to your mouth and protect the remaining tooth from further decay or potential infection.
The Different Types of Dental Crowns
Dental crowns can be made from a few different materials, including porcelain, ceramic, composite resin, zirconia, gold alloy, stainless steel, and a combination of materials. The biggest differences between each of them are their appearance, their strength, their durability, and their cost.
Porcelain crowns are one of the most popular types of dental crowns due to their natural appearance and their durability. However, they're also one of the most costly options.
Ceramic dental crowns are similar to porcelain in their durability and natural appearance, which makes them a great option. Unfortunately, as with porcelain, these types of dental crowns are similarly costly.
Composite Resin Crowns
Composite resin crowns may not be quite as natural-looking as porcelain or ceramic, and they may not be quite as durable, but they are the most affordable type of crown. They're probably the best option when you're looking for something as cost-effective as possible. Dentists call this a build-up, it’s essentially a multi-surface filling on the tooth.
Zirconia crowns are made from Zirconia oxide, a type of metal. But unlike some other metal crowns, this type of crown can be made to match the appearance of your surrounding teeth. They're stronger, longer-lasting, and more versatile than porcelain, but also more expensive.
Dental crowns made from gold alloy are probably the least natural-looking option, which is why they're more frequently used to restore teeth that are not easily visible. The benefit of this type of crown is its durability. Gold crowns are strong, long-lasting, and allow you to keep more of your natural tooth structure than other options. Dental materials are made with the same properties as gold since the gums like being against gold materials. This is why so many crowns and filling materials are made to resemble gold.
Stainless Steel Crowns
Stainless steel crowns are similar to gold crowns in that they're made of metal, and they don't match the coloring of natural teeth. They're also a strong, durable, and more affordable option.
Porcelain Fused to Metal Crowns
A good way to enjoy the advantages of porcelain crowns without paying the full cost for them is to opt for porcelain fused to metal crowns. Porcelain fused to metal crowns uses a porcelain cap with a metal alloy base to improve the appearance and reduce cost. This option tends to be the most affordable option and can be done same-day in-clinic. It is also the most popular type of crown used and has a reliable track record. Though not the best for anteriors. They’re more ideally suited for for posteriors since it’s a strong crown.
Do I Need a Dental Crown?
While there are various restorations and treatments for tooth damage and decay, dental crowns are one of the most effective and versatile. Your dentist may recommend a dental crown if:
- You have a chipped or broken tooth
- Your tooth is significantly decayed
- You've received a root canal
- You have a particularly weak tooth
- You're receiving a dental bridge
Although it's not always necessary, dental crowns can be used to protect a weak tooth that has recently received a root canal. Root canals are designed to remove an infection from the inside of a tooth and can be the only treatment option outside of extraction. Placing a dental crown on the tooth afterward can protect it and help to avoid reinfection.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is the result of your tooth's protective layer of enamel being eroded until there are holes in the teeth, known as dental caries or cavities. Once a cavity has been created, the damage is permanent, and it can continue to decay even further unless it's treated.
Enamel erosion is caused by acids in the mouth created when bacteria in the mouth digest sugars and food particles. For this reason, good oral hygiene, including both brushing and flossing, are critical to avoiding tooth decay and keeping bacteria from penetrating the gum line and potentially causing gum disease.
However, even a great oral hygiene routine might not be able to help you avoid decay. If you have particularly susceptible teeth or if you're simply getting older, decay can still manage to take hold. With that being said, brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits can go a long way toward preventing cavities.
Diet also plays a huge role in your overall oral health. Avoid highly acidic and sugary foods. And if you do enjoy them, make sure to brush your teeth immediately after.
What Causes Tooth Damage?
You can wind up cracking, breaking, or chipping your tooth for a variety of different reasons, and it doesn't always require some sort of brutal impact. Below are some of the most common causes of tooth damage.
Head-on high-speed collisions and stray elbows are always possible when playing contact sports, and so is tooth damage. The easiest way to avoid this is to wear a mouthguard.
Driving is probably the most dangerous thing we do every day, and although exercising caution and wearing a seat belt while you're behind the wheel can take you pretty far, there's no guarantee you won't experience dental trauma should an accident occur.
Sometimes you can brace for impact when you fall, and other times it's over before you know it began. Slips and falls can easily result in all kinds of tooth damage. Your best chance at avoiding this is to simply watch your step.
Chewing on Things
Chewing on ice or pen caps is not a rare habit by any means, but just one bite on the wrong surface can leave you in need of a dental crown. Avoid chewing on anything but your food and even then, exercise caution. Bruxism or grinding of the teeth is a big contributing factor to fractured teeth.
Other Options for Treating Damaged or Decayed Teeth
There are various alternatives to dental crowns that can provide a similar level of protection and function while also renewing your smile. Sometimes the damage or decay is too mild for a crown, and other times it's bad enough that extraction is necessary. Should either be the case, the following solutions can potentially save your smile:
A dental filling is the first treatment option when a significant cavity is identified early enough that the decay is still considered mild to moderate. Fillings can be made of gold, silver amalgam, composite resin, and other materials. Sometimes a temporary filling can be used as a holdover while a permanent treatment plan is determined.
Dental bonding is a treatment that can fix light tooth damage. Your dentist will prepare your damaged tooth and then use special dental cement to bond a composite resin material designed to match your tooth's appearance.
Veneers are tooth-like shells that can be fitted over front-facing teeth in order to improve their appearance. Veneers are strictly a cosmetic treatment, which means they're not capable of tackling much more than minor issues with your teeth.
A root canal is actually a treatment for an infected tooth, tooth trauma, damage, and/or decay can lead to infection, so it's a common treatment for those with either issue. The procedure involves the removal of the infected dental pulp, the disinfecting of the inner tooth, and sometimes the placement of a dental crown if the root canal is performed on particularly weak teeth.
When an extraction is necessary, a dental bridge is a good option for replacing the missing tooth. The bridge consists of a row of one or more prosthetic teeth with a dental crown on either end. The crowns are fixed to the natural teeth on either side of the gap to give the prosthetics support and stability.
A dental implant is another option when an extraction is necessary. Dental implants consist of a titanium rod that is fused to the jawbone, an abutment that connects to the rod, and a prosthetic tooth that connects to the abutment. Implants are popular because of their incredible strength.
The Dental Crown Procedure
Receiving a dental crown is a fairly simple procedure that can sometimes be performed in a single visit but more often requires a few appointments. In any event, you'll need to schedule a consultation with a licensed dentist before you receive any treatment. Once you've done that, you can expect the following:
At your first appointment, your dentist will assess your oral health to determine whether you'd be a good candidate for the dental crown procedure. Unless you have any extenuating circumstances with your health — or the decay or damage is either too mild or too severe — your dentist should approve you for dental crowns.
If you are, in fact, a good candidate for a dental crown, your dentist will need to prepare your tooth by filing it down so the crown can fit over it. After this, they'll take an impression of your mouth and send it off to a dental laboratory for the permanent crown to be created.
Unless you can find any local dentists that offer same-day services, crowns require around two weeks to be created. This is true of porcelain crowns, metal crowns, porcelain fused to metal crowns, or any other type. Your dentist will fit your mouth with a temporary crown to protect your tooth while you wait.
When the dental lab completes the permanent crown, you'll return to the dental office, and your dentist will remove the temporary cap and install the permanent crown. A good dentist will always make sure the crown fits perfectly in the patient's mouth, adjusting it until the feel is natural and you're totally comfortable.
Dental Crown Recovery
Although receiving a dental crown is not a very invasive procedure, there is a small recovery period. You'll likely have some swelling and sensitivity for a few days afterward. Your dentist will likely recommend salt water rinses and over-the-counter pain relievers. They'll also tell you to avoid hard or sticky foods.
How Much Does a Dental Crown Cost with and Without Dental Insurance?
The cost of dental care has never been cheap, and dental crowns do not defy that convention. However, certain types of dental crowns are significantly more affordable than others, and you may not have to pay full price for yours, depending on your insurance coverage.
Below are some rough estimates for how much capped-teeth cost. However, keep in mind that the insurance estimates assume you have not reached your maximum annual coverage limit.
All Porcelain Crowns
All porcelain crowns are among the most expensive types of crown. They can cost you anywhere from $800 to $3,000, with the average cost being about $820 for someone with insurance. Ceramic crowns are similar in price.
Composite Resin Crowns
The most affordable type of crown will run you somewhere between $300 and $600, with the average cost being around $320 with insurance.
Zirconia is the most expensive type of crown. The price can range anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500, with the average cost being around $1,300 with insurance.
A metal crown's price varies depending on the type of metal used. Gold alloy crowns will cost you somewhere between $800 and $2,500, with an average cost of $1,050 with insurance, while stainless steel crowns will cost you anywhere between $800 and $1,000, with an average cost of $850 with insurance.
Porcelain Fused to Metal Crowns
Crowns using porcelain fused to metal are some of the most affordable types of dental crowns. Typical costs are somewhere between $500 and $1,500, with an average cost of about $650 with insurance.
Factors that Affect Dental Crown Cost
If you're wondering, "how does one little dental crown cost that much money?" there are a number of different factors, including:
- Your location
- The dental practice you choose
- The type of crown material
- Additional dental services
- Other dental problems
- Insurance coverage
- Whether the crown is new or a replacement
As you can see, the cost of a dental crown is dependent on more than just whether it's porcelain or resin. If you're not in severe pain and don't need to see your dentist immediately for treatment, it may be worth your while to shop around and see if you can find a reputable doctor with low dental fees.
Ways to Reduce the Cost of Dental Crowns
Getting the treatment you need is crucial, and you should not forego it because you feel it is outside your budget. There are ways to reduce the cost of dental care if you know where to look.
Dental students need hands-on experience, and they often provide affordable or free care in order to get it. It may sound risky, but the student will be supervised by a dental expert throughout the procedure.
Many dentists offer affordable payment plans. Monthly installments can be quite low, and that extra time to come up with the money can make a big difference.
Affordable Dental Plans
You might be surprised by how affordable certain insurance plans can be. If you haven't already looked into it, it may be worth checking out. Additionally, find out what the American Dental Association has to say about dental insurance.
Dental Savings Plans
If you join a dental savings plan, you can get discount services and avoid some additional costs. You pay a small monthly fee and get discounts ranging from 10% to 60%, on average.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common queries regarding dental crowns, their costs, and the procedure.
Does Receiving a Dental Crown Hurt?
While you might experience some swelling and sensitivity following the procedure, receiving the dental crown is minimally invasive and not very uncomfortable. Your dentist will provide you with a local anesthetic to numb the area before the procedure.
How Long Do You Have to Wear a Temporary Crown?
How long you have to wear the temporary crown is going to depend on the time required to create your permanent one. Typically it will take somewhere between ten days and two weeks. If you opt for same-day crowns, however, you won't have to wear a temporary crown.
Does Insurance Cover Dental Crowns?
Insurance typically covers dental crowns, although it usually does not cover them in full. You'll still have to pay something for the procedure, but your insurance company should take on some of the cost, depending on your policy.
How Long Do Dental Crowns Last?
Your crown's longevity will depend on what it's made of and how well you care for it. A dental crown will usually last for about 15 years on average, but sometimes it can last twice as long.
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