Objectives The aim of this study was to investigate the reasons for placement and replacement of crowns in general dental practice. Methods Forty general dental practitioners recorded the principal reason for the provision of new (initial) and replacement crowns for a maximum of up to 20 patients over a 20-week period. Results A total of 664 patients received 783 crowns during the period of this study. Of these, 69% (n = 542) were new (initial) placements and 31% (n = 241) were replacements. Overall, tooth fracture (45%, n = 241) was the most frequently reported reason for new/initial crown placements. Aesthetics (21%, n = 53) and secondary/recurrent caries (20%; n = 47) were the most frequent reasons for crown replacement. Maxillary premolars (27%, n = 145) and mandibular molars (25%, n = 137) were the teeth that received most initial crown placements. In contrast, maxillary incisors (50%, n = 115) were the most common teeth to receive a replacement crown. Dentists were more likely to replace a crown if they had not placed the original crown: 74% of replacement crowns (n = 178) were placed by a different dentist. Most patients had only one crown placed or replaced per course of treatment (n = 611; 90%). Conclusions The results of this study reveal the prescribing habits of dentists in relation to provision of initial and replacement crowns. The vast majority of patients had only one crown provided per course of treatment, which is probably a reflection of funding schemes and changing patterns of oral health. This sample reported fewer replacement crowns than previous studies. In keeping with existing literature, crowns were more frequently replaced when the treating dentist had not placed the initial crown. However, against this, more replacements were provided for more long-standing patients (5+ years attendance) compared to those with shorter attendance history (< 5 years). In an area where high quality evidence is lacking, further consensus on the need for placement and replacement crowns is needed. Such information would assist dentists to provide high-quality care and commissioners in developing an evidence-based service.