Eight things you can do to reduce your risk of ever needing a dental crown. -

Why look for trouble? Just following these simple steps will make it much less likely that you'll ever need a first, or another, dental crown.

There are good reasons to hope that you'll never need a crown.

Crowns are an important type of restoration. And when one is needed, no other kind of dental work can really suffice.

Animation showing how a dental crown covers over its trimmed tooth.

A tooth must be trimmed aggressively when a crown is placed.

But they're also an expensive, as well as time and labor-intensive procedure. Not to mention that most will probably need to be replaced at some point in time.

So if ever needing one (or getting another one on another tooth) can be avoided all together, clearly that makes the better plan.

8 tips and suggestions that can help to minimize your chances of ever needing a dental crown placed.

Here's an outline of things you can do, or choices you can make, that can significantly help to reduce your risk of ever needing to have a tooth capped.

A) Be proactive in minimizing the amount of damage your teeth experience.

One of the primary functions of placing a dental crown is to create a strengthening effect for teeth.


In cases where a tooth has been severely damaged (like by extensive decay or having a substantial portion fracture off), just placing a filling in the resulting void may not be able to provide the level of strengthening (protection from future breakage) that it really requires.

Because a crown fully covers over it's underlying tooth, it creates a much stronger, durable and therefore lasting repair than a large filling can.

What can you do so you end up just needing a filling instead of a crown?

Any steps you take that help to limit the amount of damage your tooth experiences may help you to avoid the need of having it capped. Toward that goal, consider the following suggestions.

1) Avoid excessively hard foods or excessive food habits.

Bad luck vs. negligence.

Anyone can have a tooth break due to an accident, like when a hamburger contains a sliver of bone or an olive unexpectedly still has its pit.

But experiencing that type of bad luck is entirely different from being careless about the types of food you eat or the way you consume them.

Reduce your risk for ever needing a crown by monitoring your food habits.

Popcorn, hard pretzels or baguettes, frozen candy bars, hard candies and (crunching) ice are all items frequently associated with tooth breakage and the resulting need for crown placement. Minimizing your exposure to these items, or at least being especially vigilant while consuming them, seems a relatively small price to pay for dental serenity.

While it can be that just a single event has harmed your tooth, don't overlook the fact that continued harsh treatment can create a cumulative effect.

Small cracks tend to become larger ones. And as they do they place your tooth at greater and greater risk for experiencing severe damage, and the subsequent need for crown placement.

2) Pay attention to tooth clenching.

It's not just harmless activity.

Tooth clenching and grinding (dentist refer to this habit as bruxism) can without a doubt result in breakage and the ultimate need of having your tooth capped.

You may not realized how potentially damaging this habit can be. Here are some statistics:

  • During the course of normal dental activity (chewing, swallowing) a person's upper and lower teeth will come into contact. But this usually just involves a force of 25 pounds of pressure (or much less). And over the course of a day, a total contact time of only about 20 minutes.
  • When people clench their teeth, the duration is frequently far longer than just 20 minutes. And the amount of force involved can be on the order of 200 to 300 pounds of pressure, which is more than enough to fracture off a weakened tooth cusp or a susceptible tooth/filling complex.

(James 2016) [page references]

Things you can do to keep your bruxism in check and thus reduce your risk of ever needing a crown.
  • Teeth clenching is often a response to stress. So anything you can do to reduce your stress levels will be beneficial for your teeth too. Of course, who wouldn't be attempting to do this anyway?
  • During waking hours, tooth clenching is a subconscious habit that can be controlled. Pay attention to what you're doing and don't. Try placing a bit of your tongue between your teeth as help or a reminder. Holding your tongue against the roof of your mouth will help to keep your teeth apart.
  • If you clench your teeth in your sleep, you'll need to wear a nightguard. These appliances provide protection by redistributing the forces you create out over all of your teeth.

3) Protect your teeth from sporting accidents.

There's no shortage of people who have had to have a dental crown placed as a result of a sports accident. Something that the simple act of wearing an athletic mouth guard could have prevented.

Any one who participates in essentially any kind of sporting activity should wear some sort of mouth protection. However, clearly some types of activities place the athlete at far greater risk than others and the style of guard they wear (thickness, outline form, resiliency vs. stiffness) should reflect that.

For more details, we'll refer you to our section that explains the ins and outs of various types of athletic mouthguards.

4) Have all of your dental problems tended to promptly.

Without a doubt the saying "a stitch in time saves nine" applies to most dental issues, and especially many of those that ultimately result in the need for crown placement. And that means that you can help to avoid that outcome simply by having your dentist tend to your dental problems in a timely fashion.

B) Tips about keeping tooth wear in check.

Another important function of crown placement is to rebuild and return teeth to their original shape (or at least a more normal form).

And even though some amount of tooth wear and tear is normal, keeping it to a minimum will help to reduce your chances of ever requiring a crown.

1) Control your bruxism.

As mentioned above, the term bruxism refers to a habit of tooth clenching and grinding. And just as the forces created during clenching can be excessive (discussed above), so can the amount of wear that occurs from prolonged grinding.

Picture of front teeth worn down by teeth grinding.

These teeth have excessive wear due to bruxism.

Signs and symptoms.

As a person's teeth wear down collectively (as a unit) as a result of grinding, they become shorter.

  • A problem that occurs with back teeth is that they become shorter, and thus the person's jaws come together more so when they close. This can result in jaw-joint (TMJ) problems. It also gives the person's face a "collapsed" appearance.
  • Another common problem associated with worn back teeth is their increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages (due to the fact that their enamel has been worn thin or even off).
  • With front teeth, this kind of wear can be excessive too. It frequently gives the person a ragged (see picture above) or "aged" look.

    If you're interested, we have a page that contains a lot of pictures of front teeth worn from bruxism (we also discuss how these cases might be treated).

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Why preventing excessive tooth wear is so important.

When a tooth breaks, that single tooth will require a crown. In comparison, rebuilding teeth damaged as a result of bruxism usually involves placing several (because the teeth have worn down as a unit and must be repaired as a unit too).

So by practicing some simple preventive measures (see "clenching" suggestions above), you may be preventing the need for an extensive amount of dental work.

2) Avoid other causes of tooth wear.

Beyond tooth grinding it's not uncommon for a person to have other habits, possibly ones that are obvious but paid little attention to, that over time result in pronounced tooth damage. As examples:

  • A hard object such as a smoking pipe or ink pen might be held in a favorite location that over time causes the wear of the four (2 upper, 2 lower) or more teeth that are used to grasp it.
  • In the same way but possibly on a more localized basis, smaller objects may be held between a person's teeth (bobby pins, sewing pins, needles) that over time cause pronounced tooth wear or notching.

C) Tips about choosing the right kind of restorations for your teeth initially.

There may be times when your dentist feels you have more than one option when it comes to repairing your tooth. If so, one prime consideration should be which can be expected to provide the longest, most predictable service.

The underlying problem with replacing dental restorations.
  1. Any time a dental restoration must be replaced, its successor will be larger, or in some way more involved, than its predecessor.
  2. And after several replacements have been made, enough tooth structure may have been lost (much possibly just due to the repair process itself) that a crown is finally required.
  3. By choosing the kind of dental work initially that provides the most lasting service, the tooth's eventual need for a crown might be totally avoided.
Example scenarios.
Picture of tooth with stained and deteriorated dental bonding.

Stained and deteriorated dental bonding.

  • Issues with front teeth - The appearance of front teeth that have extensive cosmetic imperfections can sometimes be improved by either placing dental bonding or a porcelain veneer.

    Porcelain veneers characteristically won't stain and deteriorate like bonding will. And especially in the case where stain accumulation is likely to be a problem for the person (discussed below), choosing a porcelain veneer might make the better choice.

    (The longer-lasting veneer may help to preserve tooth structure, and therefore the ultimate need for a crown, by way of reducing the number of times the restoration will need to be replaced.)

  • Issues with back teeth - Patient's are often attracted to the idea of having white fillings placed in their back teeth instead of silver (dental amalgam) ones. And for comparatively smaller restorations this possibly makes a suitable choice.

    But generally speaking, amalgam (metal) fillings likely last longer. So choosing the less esthetic yet more durable choice may help you to avoid the need for a dental crown later on (by way of requiring less frequent replacement).

Of course for your situation only your dentist can advise you as to the expected longevity of the types of restorations you have to choose from. So just ask.

D) Tips about helping the dental work you do have last as long as possible.

In the same vein as that just discussed, anything you can do to help to prevent the need for replacing your existing dental work may help you to avoid the need for a crown later on.

Steps you can take to help your dental work last as long as possible.
  • Recurrent decay (new decay formation at the edge of an existing filling) is a common reason for restoration replacement. Diligent brushing and flossing along with the use of a good fluoride toothpaste is usually the corner stone of making your dental work last, and help to prevent the need for a crown later on.
  • Staining alone might be the sole reason why white fillings on front teeth need to be repeatedly replaced. If so, taking minor precautions when consuming chromogenic agents (foods, beverages, tobacco) could go a long way toward preventing the eventual need for a crown.