A new patient went to a dental office for a consultation. One of his concerns was that a large piece of porcelain broke off a dental crown (cap) that had been made at another dental office about six months after it was put in. Unfortunately, his dentist said that he would have to pay the full amount for a new crown. Not surprisingly, he left his dentist feeling upset and angry about the situation.
Although every dentist has his or her own ideas about how long different dental treatments should last for their patients, some general guidelines apply. For instance, crowns (caps), fixed dental bridges, full or partial dentures, and cast gold or porcelain fillings should be expected to last a minimum of five years: white fillings in the front of the mouth about 2-5 years: and white or silver fillings in the back of the mouth about 5-10 years. It is reasonable to expect that there should not be any or only minimal repairs required for any of these procedures beforehand. If repair or replacement is required before an acceptable period of time, the dentist should consider not charging the patient or charging a reduced fee.
There are, however, conditions that the patient must follow if they expect their dentist to perform free or reduced-cost repairs or replacements. Some dentists give a written, seven-year guarantee for all prosthetic treatment (e.g. crowns, caps, fixed bridges, and full or partial dentures, provided that all patients come to my office at least twice a year for routine dental exams and dental cleanings; the patient performs good oral hygiene at home; and the patient follows my preventive and treatment recommendations. The guarantee does not apply if the patient has been involved in an accident that has caused damage to the teeth or prosthetic dentistry. The guarantee also does not apply to any subsequent root canal therapy, or surgical or non-surgical gum treatment, that the patient may require within the seven years after treatment. Lost full and partial dentures are not guaranteed.
Patients should expect their dentist to stand behind their treatment, but patients also have a responsibility to come to the office for both maintenance and follow-up visits. Patients who see their dentist regularly should seek quality treatment that is both expected, and to a certain extent guaranteed, to last.
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