Whether or not a tooth needs to be crowned is dependent on the overall health and condition of the tooth. A larger filling, especially amalgam (silver), can undermine and weaken existing tooth structure. This can make a tooth more prone to cracks and eventual fracture. With age we accumulate more fillings which tend to get larger over time. As we get older there is a higher probability that we may need a crown to protect an existing tooth. The larger the filling, the greater the chance that part of a tooth will break off.
To protect a compromised tooth, dentists recommend crowns or full coverage restorations. A crown usually, but not always, extends all the way to the gum line around the circumference of the whole tooth. The crown fabrication procedure usually consists of two appointments, although in some cases can be done in one. During the appointment the dentists shaves the tooth down to create space for the new restoration, obtains an impression of the tooth so that the tooth can be duplicated in a laboratory and the crown can be fabricated. Once the fit is checked the crown can be permanently cemented to the tooth. The average cost of a dental crown is about $1200 dollars.
So why is the cost of the crown so expensive? The simple answer is lab and overhead costs. Depending on the laboratory and the materials used, the laboratory cost of a crown can be between 10 to 35 percent of the total cost of fabrication. To that we have to add the materials used by the dentists, the cost of renting the dental office and the cost of equipment being used. The highest part of the overhead that adds up to the cost of a crown is the salary and benefits of the dentist and staff.
Cost of a crown can be higher especially if your dentist utilizes a lot of high tech gadgets to help expedite and simplify the crown fabrication process. This can consist of 3-D milling machines that can fabricate crowns in a single day, or high tech cameras that take three dimensional impressions. All these techniques add to the patient comfort level and convenience.