Today’s patients are requesting zirconia and porcelain crowns over metal-based crowns because both zirconia and porcelain restorations provide strength and lifelike esthetics. Since the introduction of milled zirconia restorations, patients have been increasingly requesting zirconia as an alternative to porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) restorations. Many myths exist surrounding the use of zirconia in dental restorations. This article debunks the myths concerning zirconia to ensure that dentists and technicians understand the differences between the materials available for restorations.
What is Zirconia?
Zirconia, derived from zirconium dioxide, is a white, powdered metal oxide in the titanium family. This ceramic can be found all over the world. Common household items such as dinnerware, pipes, and electrical fixtures are made from zirconia. Because of its natural strength and durability, zirconia is an ideal material for dental crowns. Zirconia crowns are best for patients who need posterior crowns, which require a lot of strength for chewing and grinding food.
Myth #1: All zirconia materials are exactly the same.
Truth: Due to a wide variety of factors including chemical composition and processing requirements, there are many ways zirconia can be manufactured to suit the needs of the patient. The number of stabilizers and transparency needed for a zirconia crown depends on the individual patient and case. For instance, solid zirconia contains more stabilizers than high translucent zirconia, making it more durable to withstand forceful chewing and grinding. Solid zirconia is opaque, so it is better suited for posterior teeth, whereas high translucent zirconia better resembles natural teeth, so it’s more suited for anterior teeth.
Myth #2: For natural looking zirconia crowns, patients must sacrifice strength.
Truth: Zirconia offers superior strength and durability for dental crowns. It is at least three times stronger than porcelain or PFM restorations. Unlike porcelain, zirconia can withstand wear and tear without chipping, which is why zirconia restorations tolerate extreme chewing and bruxism. Thanks to newer monolithic zirconia (single, solid blocks of zirconia), this type of crown is nearly unbreakable and built to withstand the harsh environment the back of the mouth endures better than all-porcelain crowns.
Myth #3: Zirconia materials look unnatural in the mouth.
Truth: Zirconia contains no metal lining at the gums. Porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crowns actually possess a metal layer underneath the porcelain layer at the top of the crown. This metal lining is usually visible at the gum line and can be seen when patients smile. This can be embarrassing for patients who want a natural looking smile. Zirconia crowns avoid the metal lining completely and allow patients to smile with confidence. Additionally, zirconia crowns can be manipulated to fit any size or shape to match the rest of a patient’s teeth.
Zirconia restorations have been used successfully for years and provide patients with excellent strength, durability, and true-to-life esthetics. Originally, the very first zirconia restorations were difficult to create due to their bone-white color that was hard to manipulate without adding bulk to the restoration. Today, it is possible to create true to life esthetic zirconia restorations suitable for anywhere in the mouth. Currently, the demand for zirconia far exceeds the demand for PFMs, and these older-style restorations are becoming a thing of the past.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like more information. Our skilled technicians have in-depth knowledge about zirconia materials used for restorations and are always willing to discuss specific cases.