Today’s patients request zirconia and porcelain crowns over metal-based crowns because both zirconia and porcelain restorations provide strength and natural aesthetics. 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 prescribe zirconia or all-ceramic restorations, mainly 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 aesthetics and are virtually indestructible, zirconia is becoming the most popular material for fabricating 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 worldwide. Everyday 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 strength for masticating food.
What is PFM?
As the name suggests, porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns combine porcelain and metal. The porcelain overlay is color-matched to the natural teeth, but the darker metal color could show at the gingival margin, especially if there is gingival recession. Dentists usually recommend PFM restorations for patients who desire strength and a natural appearance.
Why Use Zirconia Over PFM?
Reliability and Durability
Safer for Patients
1. 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, so zirconia restorations tolerate the forces of mastication and bruxism. Thanks to newer monolithic zirconia (single, solid blocks of zirconia), this crown is nearly unbreakable and built to withstand the harsh environment, especially in the posterior area of the mouth.
3. Natural-Looking Smile
Zirconia contains no metal lining at the gingival margin. Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns possess a metal layer underneath the porcelain layer at the coronal aspect of the crown. This metal lining is usually visible at the gingival margin and can be seen when patients smile. Zirconia crowns avoid the metal lining altogether 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.
4. 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 mastication and grinding. If properly maintained, zirconia restorations can last a patient’s lifetime.
Due to various factors, including chemical composition and processing requirements, there are many ways zirconia can be manufactured to suit the patient's needs. This customization minimizes the margin for error and ensures an excellent fit for each individual.
6. Safer for Patients
The high biocompatibility of zirconia will not cause allergies in patients who have allergic reactions to the alloys in PFM restorations. Zirconia possesses excellent biocompatibility, making the crowns and bridges prepared from zirconia highly safe for clinical use.
Zirconia restorations have been used successfully for years and provide patients with excellent strength, durability, and true-to-life aesthetics. 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 technicians are always willing to discuss specific cases.