Finding the right material for dental restorations is crucial to meeting your patients’ personalized needs. As a result, providers are constantly deciding which materials will maximize the patient benefit with minimal drawbacks.
Zirconia has become one of the most popular choices for esthetic dental crowns and restorations, and for good reason, providing a strong, but realistic-looking replacement for real teeth. However, as with any material, you should weigh the pros and cons of zirconia crowns to determine if they are right for your patient.
What Are Zirconia Crowns?
Zirconia crowns are made from a type of monolithic ceramic called zirconium dioxide, and they provide patients with a full coverage, long-lasting, and durable restoration. First introduced in 2011 as an alternative to porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns, zirconia crowns are metal-free, comfortable for the patient, and remarkably natural-looking.
Zirconia crowns are also highly versatile, as the chemical formulation of the material allows for them to be customized and fitted for each individual case. There are three main types of zirconia crowns, each with its own advantages.
Monolithic Solid Zirconia
Monolithic solid zirconia crowns are the strongest zirconia option and require the least occlusal clearance. However, monolithic zirconia’s construction also makes it more opaque than other options, so they are a little less realistic and better for posterior teeth.
Layered zirconia is processed by layering different ceramic powers to match the natural translucency of the surrounding teeth. This form of zirconia is more translucent and opalescent, which is more realistic and makes it a popular choice for anterior crowns. However, layered zirconia does require more clearance for placement.
Translucent zirconia, or high translucent zirconia, is the best option for patients that prioritize esthetics without layering. The material disk that we mill has built-in layering that graduates from gingival to occlusal. The translucent appearance causes the material to reflect the color of the surrounding teeth and better blend in with your natural teeth. Translucent zirconia provides esthetic benefits without sacrificing the high durability that zirconia is known for.
Advantages of Zirconia Dental Crowns
In just 13 years since its introduction, zirconia has become one of the best options for dental restorations, meeting a wide range of patient needs. The following are some of the best zirconia crown advantages that drive providers to choose the material for restorations.
One of the best qualities of zirconia is how well it reacts with the body. For starters, zirconia is completely metal-free, eliminating the risk of patient allergies that comes with PFM restorations. As a result, zirconia provides an excellent alternative to PFM. All of this makes zirconia incredibly beneficial.
The gum tissue also responds positively to the chemical composition of zirconia, creating a comfortable experience for the patient. The structure of zirconia also makes it highly customizable. For example, the PRO-Craft custom natural anatomical library allows for the morphology of natural teeth, providing an ideal fit and maximum comfort for each patient.
At PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory, our unique hand-pumicing and polishing technique also makes our zirconia crowns better for your surrounding teeth by reducing the chances of wear on your opposing teeth from chewing or friction.
In addition to the peace of mind that comes from comfort and biocompatibility. Zirconia is strong and durable enough to withstand the daily forces of biting. In fact, zirconia is the strongest material for esthetic dental crowns when compared to porcelain or PFM restorations.
Zirconia crowns feature a resistance of around 1000 MPa. This amount of strength makes the crowns more resistant to chipping. As a result, your patients can bite and chew with complete confidence, enjoying the functionality of a real tooth. If cared for properly, zirconia crowns could likely last up to 20 years, or even a lifetime.
Great Natural Appearance
Zirconia is an excellent material to provide your patient with natural-looking restorations. When restorations first started using zirconia 13 years ago, they were only available in opaque unnatural shades and not as realistic as lithium disilicate options.
However, the appearance of zirconia restorations has become more realistic in recent years, featuring ways to get a more transparent appearance that is more akin to a natural tooth. Again, zirconia is pretty new to the dental world, so the technology for zirconia restorations will only get more realistic as time goes on.
Where you obtain your zirconia crowns can also make a significant difference in their appearance. For example, at PRO-Craft, we use a proprietary tinting process to create a natural and accurate shade for each crown. Our hand-pumicing and polishing process helps make the appearance even more realistic by creating a smooth, lifelike surface. Even better, this process helps limit plaque accumulation so the crowns look better than you could imagine.
Disadvantages of Zirconia Dental Crowns
Zirconia offers few disadvantages, and they rarely outweigh the benefits. Still, any good provider will consider the potential drawbacks of these types of restorations before committing to using them for a patient. The following are the most significant zirconia crown problems that can arise for providers and patients.
More Significant Tooth Reduction
Before turning to zirconia crowns, a key factor to consider is the preparation necessary for implementation. Zirconia crowns must have a minimal marginal depth of 0.6mm and an axial wall reduction of at least 1.0mm, on top of a 1.5mm occlusal reduction. The additional space required can make preparation more challenging and time-consuming. Still, the space needed for a zirconia crown is much less than a traditional PFM crown.
Relatively New Option
Zirconia crown problems don’t arise too often, but there is still more for us to learn about these types of dental crowns. Zirconia crowns were first introduced around 2010, and they immediately gained popularity. Although they are extremely popular and serve their purpose well so far, there has not been as much of an opportunity to study their longevity.
For some, the more recent introduction of zirconia is enough reason not to trust it compared to more seasoned options. However, so far, zirconia restorations have high survival rates in patients that use them, demonstrating 98% survivability after 5 years. Still, only time will tell whether this remains to be the case as the years add up.
When it comes to dental restorations, cost is always one of the most important factors for patients. Unfortunately, zirconia is one of the more costly options for dental restorations. Compared to ceramic, metal, or porcelain crowns, zirconia is the more costly option. However, they can still be found at a lower price than some lithium disilicate crowns.
The cost of zirconia crowns also depends on your geographic location, so always contact a lab to get an accurate price estimate. Keep in mind also, that you get what you pay for, so for many patients and providers, a slightly higher price is well worth the benefits and personal reputation of the practitioner.
Find Quality Zirconia Restorations at PRO-Craft
Altogether, zirconia offers several advantages for strong, realistic restorations with minimal drawbacks. You can explore your options for zirconia restorations at PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory, as we provide three different types of zirconia crowns.
At PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory, we go above and beyond the typical restoration process so that every patient can enjoy comfortable, realistic teeth. From our hand polishing process to our anatomical library for natural tooth morphology, we take every step to ensure patient satisfaction. Contact us today to learn more about our proprietary process and the difference it can make for your patients.