I have cosmetic veneers on two teeth that were intact but looked awful, and they're just a layer of porcelain laminate glued to my real tooth. The underlying tooth was polished and filed a bit, but certainly not "ground down to little sticks"; the teeth could have been left as-is and functioned fine.
I also have several full crowns, but they were down because of decay, certainly not for cosmetic purposes. That of course does not mean that you can't do full crowns for cosmetic purposes, but it's usually a last resort before implants.
If you can't chew properly on a crown you have a bad dentist. Nature really does not work best in this case for a lot of us - two of my crowns are in place because parts of the real tooth shattered into several pieces while chewing, others because the damage eventually got so severe that there was too little left to save.