How much do dental crowns cost? / Does insurance cover them? -
How much will your crown cost?
This page provides the following information:
- Price estimates for dental crowns ("caps") according to type: 1) Gold (all-metal), 2) Porcelain (all-ceramic) and 3) Porcelain-fused-to-metal. The issue of fees for replacement crowns is also discussed.
- An explanation of dental plan stipulations and exclusions that can affect insurance coverage for this procedure, as well as sample calculations of how benefits are typically determined.
If you need more information about the different types of crowns (including advantages, disadvantages, applications and pictures), use this link.
a) Fees for all-metal crowns -
- Gold dental crown / All-metal dental crown - precious metal. (Notes #2, 3 & 4)
$765.00 - $1440.00
Other terms that apply- White-gold crowns
- All-metal dental crown - non-precious metal. (Notes #2, & 3)
$675.00 - $1320.00
b) Fees for porcelain crowns -
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal dental crown (precious metal). (Notes #1 & 4)
$845.00 - $1550.00
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). (Notes #1 & 4)
$778.00 - $1310.00
Other terms that apply- PFM
- All-ceramic dental crown.
$850.00 - $1580.00
Other terms (and brand names) that apply- porcelain jacket, Procera®, Empress®, CEREC®, Obsidian®, Lava®, In-Ceram®, zirconia, BruxZir®, IPS emax®
[You've just learned that crowns can be expensive. Tip the scales so you're less likely to ever need getting another tooth capped by following our 8 precautions.]
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.
Note #4: Prices for crowns for front and back teeth are usually the same, but may not be. In most instances the cost of a crown for a front or back tooth will be the same. A possible exception might involve restorations fabricated using precious alloy (a gold crown or some types of PFM's).
Crowns made for molars are typically larger than those for front teeth, and thus more metal is required. When precious alloys are involved, a dentist may feel they need to control these variances by charging according to the actual amount (weight) of metal used.
Fees for replacement dental crowns.
The norm is that the cost of a tooth's replacement crown will be the same as what the dentist currently charges for new (initial placement) cases (such as those fees shown above).
While it's true that less tooth preparation (trimming) will likely be needed this time around, overall the amount of appointment time required, and expense that the dentist incurs (like the bill from the dental laboratory that fabricates the new restoration), will be essentially the same as with an initial placement case, hence the full fee is warranted.
Dental insurance coverage for replacement crowns sometimes falls victim to policy limitations and exclusions. We discuss those issues on this page below.
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
Dental laboratories typically charge the same fee for restorations for front or back teeth.
However, when a precious alloy is involved (like with gold crowns or some types of PFM's) there is often a set allowance for how much metal is used. If more is required, a higher fee is charged (according to the weight of the additional metal and current market prices).
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 of a certain age. The cutoff might be as low as age 12. We've also seen policies set it at age 16 years and over. It's common that a dentist would have waited until the prescribed age limit anyway for the placement of a permanent crown 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 to possibly 7 years is a common time frame.
- Lost dental crowns. - As an exclusion, some insurance policies specifically state they will not provide benefits for "lost, missing or stolen crowns." This type of stipulation brings to light how important it is to manage a crown that has come off appropriately. This page explains how.
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 FAQ's.
- What are crowns (caps)? When is one needed?
- Applications -
- The dental crown procedure.
- The single-appointment, one-hour crowning procedure.
- Common problems and complications.
- How to sell old crowns.
- Reference sources for this page.