Why are White (Zirconia) Crowns Better than Metal (PFM) Crowns?

Dental Crowns

Why are White (Zirconia) Crowns Better than Metal (PFM) Crowns?

It begins with a crunch, a crack and a sharp pain in your jaw. Next comes the visit to the dentist’s office and the decision: you need a crown. But how do you choose what kind of crown best fits your budget and gets you the beautiful smile you deserve? Often, it comes down to a blend of aesthetics and budget.

Today, there are a great number of options available for people after a solid, long-lasting crown, and it doesn’t always have to be metal. With a zirconia crown, you can get a beautiful porcelain-white smile for a fraction of the cost of porcelain. Additionally, you get one of the longest-lasting and durable materials for your crown available on the market.

Many patients today want to preserve their natural smile, and traditionally porcelain options are often too expensive to consider. Zirconia crowns, however, are cheap, reliable, and long-lasting, guaranteeing your smile will last for years to come.

What Are Zirconia Crowns?

Zirconia is a type of ceramic that is very hard and very durable. It is made up of zirconium oxide, a white powdered metal. It is a newer material being used to create crowns and offers many advantages over other types of ceramics. It is the hardest known ceramic in the industry, and the process generally takes only one visit.

First, the dentist or a technician will take a 3D scan of the tooth, or of an impression of the tooth. A zirconia core is then milled while in a soft state. After the implant is milled, it is sintered in a furnace where it shrinks in size and reaches its highest durability. Then, the core is often layered with a more natural looking tooth tissue-like porcelain before being cemented in place by the dentist. Any adjustments needed can easily be adjusted by the dentist on the same day as the impressions were taken, with a final cementing taking place once the dentist is sure the fit is perfect for the patient.

Zirconia, while extremely durable, is not as translucent as other porcelains. This means that less light passes through the implant, so it stands out more when compared to a natural tooth. This means most dentists will use a zirconia implant for back teeth and opt for a different kind of porcelain for front teeth. However, as more developments continue in the creation of zirconia crowns, the appearance improves, possibly making aesthetics a non-issue. Unlike other crowns, zirconia gives the benefit of a natural looking smile, and a long lasting material to help prevent further damage to the tooth.

Zirconia crowns are also cared for much like normal teeth, requiring brushing at least twice a day, and flossing at least once a day. And because most dental offices can scan, mill, and cement the implant all in-house, they often charge a lower price for a zirconia crown than for other types of porcelain that would take multiple days at a separate lab to process. Another great benefit of zirconia crowns is that it can all be done in one session.

What are their benefits over PFM crowns?

PFM crowns, or porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns, are a type of crown in which a metal base covers the remainder of the tooth and layers of porcelain are attached to the metal base. They are useful for when a crown needs to withstand a lot of pressure or tension that often comes with chewing. PFM restorations have been used for over 50 years, and while proven to be long-lasting, often will fail when there is breakage of a large piece of ceramic from the metal substructure. If the break is too large, it can mean that the PFM crown has to be replaced.

PFM crowns while seeming to combine the benefits of a metal crown, sturdiness and stability, with the aesthetic benefits of porcelain, often leave a metal ring at the bottom of the crown that can be noticeable. This metal ring is exposed when the gums recede, and even lay people can detect when a tooth is in fact false. The porcelain used can degrade over time, giving the tooth a dull color inconsistent with the other natural teeth. Still, PFM crowns are quite functional and have good longevity.

Dentists trust PFM crowns because of their proven track record, but the zirconia-based crowns are becoming more and more popular. Aesthetics is a large consideration when getting major work done on your teeth, and zirconia crowns offer great aesthetics with fantastic durability.

A zirconia crown is the best answer to the problems present in getting a crown for your back teeth: incredible strength combined with a beautiful aesthetic, sometimes even at a fraction of the cost. Zirconia is much more durable than even the materials used in conventional PFM crowns, so you don’t have to worry about the crown becoming worn out or breaking over time.

The alloys present in PFM crowns can cause an allergic reaction in some people. According to dentaleconomics.com, the metals in the alloys used by PFM crowns can “result in gum tissue that is purplish in appearance, and some patients experience irritation and/or gingival recession”. Zirconia, on the other hand, presents an extremely safe alternative, boasting excellent biocompatibility. This means zirconia works well with the natural chemistry present in your mouth. Tissue in the mouth doesn’t pull away from the zirconia crown, and the gums often appear healthy and pink.

While zirconia can be quite opaque, and not allow a lot of light through, it does allow more than a PFM crown. This means that teeth with a PFM crown look somewhat dull in appearance, unlike zirconia and other ceramics. Additionally, less of the tooth typically needs to be removed, compared to other types of crowns. Because zirconia crowns are so strong, a thinner crown can be used. A thinner crown means less tooth removal.

Next time you are in the chair, needing a crown or other restoration, ask your dentist about zirconia crowns and if they would be right for you. Check with your insurance as well to see if they cover zirconia or what options they might have.

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