My Zirconia Crown Keeps Coming Off

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

Your dentist kept telling you about how great zirconia crowns were and that it is the best dental ceramic ever. However after you’ve had it cemented on, it seems to keep coming off every few months. It is certainly annoying because you have to go back in and have it reglued each time!

ceramic crown on molar
Zirconia crown on die model

Why does it keep popping off and is there anything that you can do about it? Look no further because we’ve got all of the answers for you.

Reasons for poor retention

If the zirconia crown is not staying on the tooth, there is obviously something causing it to fall off. Here are all of the possible reasons as to why it has such poor retention despite being glued on.

Short clinical crown

A very short tooth will make it incredibly difficult for your zirconia crown to stay on. The reason is because the retention of the restoration is directly proportional to the surface that it has in contact with.

  • A bigger tooth will have a larger surface area for the crown to grab on to.
  • A smaller tooth will have a smaller surface area for it to grab on to.

Basically the larger the surface area the more surface friction the glue will have to hold the crown on. You lose a lot of this benefit when the tooth is short.

Video demonstration

If it’s hard for you to visualize using words, we’ve created a video to show what we mean by having a short clinical crown.

Essentially, a longer or larger tooth will provide better retention. That means the crown will be less likely to pop off.

Over tapered axial walls

Crowns have the best retention when the axial walls are less tapered. If they are over tapered and have a high degree of convergence, the retention will consequently suffer.

various crown preparation degrees of taper
Crown prep degrees of taper; Credit: E. Emtair, S. Bakry, A. Azer

Studies have shown that the ideal degree of convergence is 5 degrees. Once the taper starts increasing beyond that point, the crown will have a harder time staying on the tooth. In other words, it will come off more easily.

Wrong cement choice

The most popular type of dental cement that is used for zirconia crowns is resin modified glass ionomer (RMGI). It is versatile and works extremely well for most situations.

However for a non-retentive situation where it keeps coming off, you need a stronger cement. A better choice would be an all resin cement which is typically reserved for veneers. Using it on zirconia does not give it the full benefits but it is still nonetheless stronger than the RMGI.

Heavy lateral excursive forces

Zirconia tooth caps can get knocked off the tooth if there are heavy lateral excursive forces. This type of force isn’t the up and down biting that you do when you chew. What we mean by this is the side to side motions.

If there are a lot of side to side interferences, it only increases the chances of it popping off. This may happen if your dentist didn’t check the side to side occlusion.

How to increase zirconia crown retention

All hope is not lost because there are ways to increase the retention of your zirconia tooth cap. These all require a trip back to your dentist to implement it.

Add retention slots

An often glossed over technique to improve crown retention is to add slots to the crown preparation. Basically your dentist will drill a small rectangular box into the buccal (cheek side) and lingual (tongue side) of the tooth. These additional slots will add retention to the crown and help it stay on.

crown prep with buccal and lingual slots on a molar
crown prep with buccal and lingual slots on a molar

This technique will increase the surface area that the crown has in contact with the tooth. It will also increase the effectiveness of the dental cement.

Stronger cement

If your dentist didn’t use the strongest cement possible, they should consider it now since it has fallen off a few times. The glue of choice would be an all resin cement that is typically used for dental veneers.

Decrease taper of axial walls

If the lack of retention from your zirconia crown was due to over tapered walls, your dentist can decrease the taper by reprepping it. Basically they will redrill around the tooth and make the axial walls straighter.

Adjust occlusion

After cementing the crown back on, it would be prudent for your dentist to check the occlusion. Make sure it is not being occluded heavily on nor are there lateral interferences.

If you’re hitting on that tooth hard when you chew, it’ll only increase the likelihood of it popping off again. These high spots will need to be shaved down.


If none of the recommendations above work and the zirconia crown continues to come off, you should consider alternative options. Perhaps zirconium dioxide is not the best choice of dental material for your particular situation.

Switch to emax crown

Your dentist could switch ceramic materials to emax instead of zirconia. The biggest benefit of using an emax crown is the ability to bond it onto the tooth. This type of ceramic material is more similar to a veneer where it can be bonded. Zirconia on the other hand lacks the capability to be bonded because it can only be cemented.

Dental implant

If no crown can stay on, perhaps you should consider getting a dental implant. Of course you would need the tooth to be extracted first but afterwards you can get a zirconia implant crown that is screwed in.

For a screwed in implant crown you don’t have to worry about the glue coming loose. The retention will instead rely on the screw.


Crowns coming off is not an uncommon complication from getting a dental crown. The challenges are increased if you opt for zirconia instead of emax since it cannot be bonded.

Nonetheless there are a couple of things which you can try to help improve the retention. We recommend discussing with your dentist about what your options are and what you should do.


1311 Jackson Ave
Long Island City, NY 11101

Email Us


Dental Services

If you're in NYC and in need of a dentist, our clinical dental practice, 1311 Jackson Ave Dental is accepting new patients.

Our purpose at afterva, is to encourage you to seek in person care with a doctor. It's not meant to be a substitute for medical advice.

A lot of nuances cannot be detected without an in-person clinical exam, which means it is near impossible to diagnose and treat virtually.

sitemap | privacy policy