How much do dental crowns cost? / Does insurance cover them? -
How much will your crown cost?
- This page provides price estimates for dental crowns ("caps") according to type: 1) Gold (all-metal), 2) Porcelain (all-ceramic) and 3) Porcelain-fused-to-metal.
- It also explains stipulations and conditions that can affect dental insurance coverage for this procedure.
As you'll see below, while the cost for each type of crown is different, their prices don't vary drastically.
That means if your dentist feels that the construction or appearance of one kind will create a better looking, better fitting or more durable final restoration, then for the relatively small cost difference involved, it's probably a great idea to follow their recommendation.
[If you need more information about the different types of crowns (advantages, disadvantages, applications, pictures), use this link.
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a) Fees for porcelain crowns -
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal dental crown (precious metal).
$810.00 - $1450.00
Low fee = Small rural city or town.
High fee = Large metropolitan area.
Other terms that apply- PFM, porcelain-fused-to-gold, PFG
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal dental crown (non-precious metal). (Note #1)
$760.00 - $1275.00
Other terms that apply- PFM
- All-ceramic dental crown.
$820.00 - $1520.00
Other terms (and brand names) that apply- porcelain jacket, Procera®, Empress®, CEREC®, Obsidian®, Lava®, In-Ceram®, zirconia, BruxZir®, IPS emax®
b) Fees for all-metal crowns -
- Gold dental crown / All-metal dental crown - precious metal. (Notes #2 & 3)
$740.00 - $1390.00
Other terms that apply- White-gold crowns
- All-metal dental crown - non-precious metal. (Notes #2 & 3)
$650.00 - $1210.00
Notes and comments:
Note #1: Porcelain-fused-to-metal dental crowns can be fabricated using any one of a number of different dental alloys. Based on their composition, these metals are categorized as: 1) Precious (high noble), 2) Semi-precious (noble) or 3) Non-precious (base or non-noble). (Use this link for more details about dental alloys.)
- In general, dental alloys having higher precious metal content offer advantages during the fabrication and crown-seating process. And for this reason are preferred.
Reasons not to choose a precious alloy are typically only based on cost, or limitations imposed by the patient's dental insurance plan (see below).
- In terms of the patient's experience (appearance, function, longevity), crowns made using any one of the types of alloys should be similar, although every dentist will have their own distinct opinion in regard to this matter.
Note #2: All-metal dental crowns are also classified according to the type of dental alloy from which they are fabricated (see alloys link above).
- From the standpoint of patient experience, any type of all-metal crown can be expected to provide similar service in terms of function and longevity.
- There are, however, advantages associated with precious alloys in regard to crown fabrication and placement (see link above). And for this reason are typically considered to be the preferred choice.
- A decision against a noble alloy is usually based on cost or limitations dictated by a patient's dental plan.
Note #3: Dental alloys vary in color. For example, they can be either gold or "white" (silver-colored). Among gold alloys, the metal's tint can range from deep-yellow to pale gold. If the appearance of your all-metal crown is important to you, you must discuss this issue with your dentist before it is made.
How much does your dentist pay for a crown?
In the vast majority of cases, a dentist doesn't actually make the crowns they place. Instead they send an impression of their patient's tooth to a dental laboratory where it's restoration is then custom fabricated by a technician.
While your dentist's actual cost for your crown may seem small when compared to the amount you end up paying, keep in mind that it only comprises a portion of their total expenses when performing this procedure for you.
Estimates of dental laboratory fees for dental crowns: (Your dentist's cost.)
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal (precious metal) - $135.00 to $155.00
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal (non-precious metal) - $80.00 to $120.00
- All-metal (precious metal/gold alloy) - $145.00 to $165.00
- All-metal (non-precious metal) - $55.00 to $65.00
- All-ceramic (e.g. IPS e.max, zirconia) - $100.00 to $150.00
The fee for precious-metal/gold crowns will tend to fluctuate regularly according to current precious metal prices, and will likely vary by the actual weight of the restoration.
Selling old dental crowns.
Old dental restorations frequently have precious-metal content, and if they do they have value. Any dental work that's taken out of your mouth is yours and it should be given to you.
This link provides information about selling scrap dental restorations.
Does dental insurance cover crowns?
Your plan very well may provide benefits for dental crown placement but you'll have to check your policy to know for sure. "Lesser" plans may not.
a) Insurance details.
- To receive full benefits, the policy's deductible must have been met.
- Plans typically have a maximum benefits limitation, which typically runs on some type of per-year basis.
b) Possible policy restrictions.
Dental plans sometimes have limitations associated with this procedure.
- Types of crowns allowed - A plan may place a restriction on the type of crown placed. For example, they may limit the type of metal used in the crown's construction (i.e. gold or precious metal vs. non-precious alloys). Or they may not provide coverage for the placement of porcelain crowns (PFM or all-ceramic) on back teeth.
Some plans allow that a member may opt for a different type of crown than the one(s) covered. The patient is then responsible for the difference in cost between the two.
- Placement must be justified - Your dentist may have to submit documentation (x-rays, clinical notes) explaining why a crown is needed. This way the insurance company has evidence that another (likely less expensive) procedure wouldn't have sufficed (i.e. a dental filling). They'll also want to know that the crown wasn't placed just for cosmetic reasons.
- Wait periods - New policy holders may find that they have a wait period before crowns are covered. For example, there may not be coverage for the plan's first 12 months.
- Age restrictions - Benefits for this procedure may be limited to persons age 16 years and over. It's common that a dentist will want to wait until this age or later before placing a permanent crown anyway, due to age-related growth issues.
- Replacement intervals. - An insurance plan may not provide coverage for a replacement crown if it had provided benefits for the existing one within a certain time period. 5 years is a common time frame, although it may be longer.
Preauthorizing a procedure is the process where the dentist collects all relevant information, and then submits it to the insurance company so to let them know what treatment is planned. The company then reviews the information and responds by stating what they expect they will provide as coverage.
Ask your dentist's office if this step is needed. It isn't always. But in situations where plan questions exist and a significant cost is involved, doing so can help to avoid surprises.
d) Maximum-benefits limitations.
It's common for a dental plan to have a clause that outlines the maximum benefits it will pay per policy year. And when multiple crowns are needed, this limit can be reached quickly. The example calculations below explain common work arounds for this limit.
Cost calculations for crowns.
Examples with and without dental insurance coverage.
There are several issues that may factor into how much your new crown actually ends up costing you. Here are some example calculations that explain possible outcomes, both when dental insurance is and isn't involved.
This section also gives suggestions for how the obstacle of policy maximum yearly benefits can sometimes be worked around.
For the sake of simplification, in the sample calculations below we've set the per-unit price of crowns at $1000.
If you just need one or two placed:
- Total charges by your dentist for your work: $1000 (unit price) X 2 (number of "units") = $2000.
- If insurance is involved: As a "Major" dental service, it's common for insurance plans to cover 50% of the (UCR) fee of crowns, after the policy's deductible has been met, but only up to the amount of its maximum annual benefits. (See above for an explanation of these terms.)
For our examples on this page, we'll set the deductible at $100 and the policy's maximum benefits at $1000. Both of these numbers are fairly common.
Insurance benefits: [$2000 (total charges) - $100 (policy deductible)] X 50% = $950. Note, this number is smaller than the maximum yearly benefit.
Amount you pay: $2000 (total charges) - $950 (insurance benefits) = $1050.
- Total charges by your dentist for your work: $1000 (unit price) X 1 (number of "units") = $1000.
- Insurance benefits: Using the example policy values stated above, the calculation for one crown would be [$1000 (total charges) - $100 (the policy deductible)] X 50% = $450. Once again, this amount lies below the policy's maximum benefits.
Amount you pay: $1000 (total charges) - $450 (insurance benefits) = $550.
If you need three or four placed:
- Total charges by your dentist for your work: $1000 (unit price) X 4 (number of "units") = $4000.
- Insurance benefits: Using the policy values above, the calculation for four crowns would be [$4000 (total charges) - $100 (the policy deductible)] X 50% = $1950. However, this number is greater than the policy's maximum benefits, so in this example the benefits would be limited to $1000 (see discussion below).
Amount you pay: $4000 (total charges) - $1000 (insurance benefits) = $3000.
- Total charges by your dentist for your work: $1000 (unit price) X 3 (number of "units") = $3000.
- Insurance benefits: Using the policy values above, the calculation for three crowns would be [$3000 (total charges) - $100 (the policy deductible)] X 50% = $1450. Because this number is greater than the policy's maximum benefits, the total amount paid would be limited $1000 (see discussion below).
Amount you pay: $3000 (total charges) - $1000 (insurance benefits) = $2000.
Working around the maximum yearly benefits limitation.
As you can see from these last two examples, when multiple crowns are needed a policy's maximum benefits limitation can be reached very quickly.
A possible work around.
If that's true for your case, ask your dentist about the timing of your policy year and how your treatment can be planned with it in mind.
For example, with those that run on an annual cycle you might have some crowns placed in late December and the remainder in early January. Doing so might satisfy the conditions of your policy, yet allow all of your work to be completed within a relatively compact time frame.
Not all treatment plans can be divided up this way. But if yours can, using this approach may be able to save you some money.
If you need five or six placed:
- Total charges by your dentist for your work: $1000 (unit price) X 6 (number of "units") = $6000.
- Insurance benefits: Using the same policy values as above, the calculation for six crowns would be [$6000 (total charges) - $100 (the policy deductible)] X 50% = $2950. But since this number is greater than the policy's maximum benefits, the amount paid would be limited to $1000 (see discussion below).
Amount you pay: $6000 (total charges) - $1000 (insurance benefits) = $5000.
- Total charges by your dentist for your work: $1000 (unit price) X 5 (number of "units") = $5000.
- Insurance benefits: Using the policy values above, the calculation for five crowns would be [$5000 (total charges) - $100 (the policy deductible)] X 50% = $2450. But once again, the total benefits paid would be limited to $1000 (see discussion below).
Amount you pay: $5000 (total charges) - $1000 (insurance benefits) = $4000.
Dealing with insurance limitations when a large number of crowns are needed.
As you can see, in cases where a relatively large number of restorations is planned, the benefits actually paid by your insurance company can become comparatively minor.
Possible work arounds.
As discussed above, some cases might be split up, where part of the work is performed during the very last part of one policy year and the very beginning of the next.
As yet another alternative, one might consider stretching out their crown placement over several years. However, doing so may be ill advised. For example, teeth that need the strengthening effect that a crown can provide may suffer irreparable damage if not treated in a timely fashion.
We discuss the issue of crown alternatives and alternative approaches on this page. Keep in mind however, only your dentist has the needed knowledge to make an informed decision about which ones make an appropriate choice for your situation.
Full menu for topic Dental Crowns -
- Dental crown ("cap") basics - What are they? When is one needed?
- Applications / Advantages -
- The steps of the dental crown procedure.
- Common problems and complications.
- How to sell old crowns.
- Assorted FYI facts about dental crowns.