Posted by Bill Warner | April 11, 2019|

Dental Technology, Zirconia

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. Some dentists exclusively use zirconia or all-ceramic restorations, particularly when restoring a single tooth. Most dental practices are switching from the conventional PFM and all-ceramic crowns and moving towards the use of zirconia for creating fixed dental prostheses. Because zirconia crowns and bridges possess excellent esthetics and are virtually indestructible, zirconia is becoming the most popular material for making dental crowns and other restorations.


What is Zirconia?

Zirconia is a metal oxide derived from zirconium, a metal in the titanium family, and 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.


What is PFM?

As the name suggests, porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crowns are a combination of porcelain and metal. The porcelain overlay is color-matched to your natural teeth, but the darker metal color could show at the gum line, especially if your gums recede. Dentists usually recommend PFM restorations for patients who desire strength and a natural appearance.  


Why Use Zirconia Over PFM?

  • Exceptional Strength

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.

  • Natural Looking Smile

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.  

  • Reliability and Durability

Zirconia is even more durable than the conventionally used PFM ceramics. For instance, solid zirconia contains more stabilizers than PFM ceramics, making it more durable to withstand forceful chewing and grinding. If properly maintained, zirconia restorations can last a patient’s lifetime.

  • Customization

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. This customization minimizes the margin for error and ensures excellent fit for each individual.

  • Safer for Patients

The high biocompatibility of zirconia will not cause allergies in patients who have allergic reactions to PFM restorations. Quite a few dental patients are allergic to the alloys used for the fabrication of PFM crowns. If a patient faces these allergies, this is a sign that zirconia should be used when making restorations. In fact, zirconia possesses excellent biocompatibility, making the crowns and bridges prepared from zirconia extremely safe for clinical use inside the mouth.


Zirconia restorations have been used successfully for years and provide patients with excellent strength, durability, and true-to-life esthetics. 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.


Click here to schedule a consultation with our technical team » 

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About the Author:Bill Warner

Bill Warner has more than 35 years of dental laboratory experience as a technician, supervisor and laboratory owner. Bill is an expert in all phases of fixed prosthetics, including product selection and planning for the most complex cases.

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