IPS e.max vs. Zirconia Crowns: How To Choose the Best Option

November 09, 2022

Emax vs. Zirconia Crowns
Nicole Donnelly | Blog Author at Pro-Craft

Written by:
Nicole Donnelly

In dental restorations, choosing the absolute best material is not always so straightforward. For example, IPS e.max and zirconia crowns both offer versatile, reliable, and realistic restoration options. These are two of the most popular forms of crowns, and their respective advantages can make it difficult to decide between them. 

The differences between the two types of crowns come down to the materials they are made from, which affects their strength and functionality. Understanding the advantages and drawbacks of each material and how they compare will allow you to make the best decision for your patient.

What Are IPS e.max Crowns?

IPS e.max crowns are a type of dental restoration made from a material called lithium disilicate, a type of glass ceramic. In IPS e.max crowns, the material is made of quartz, lithium dioxide, phosphor oxide, and potassium oxide, among other elements. These crowns serve as an excellent alternative to metal or PFM restorations.

These crowns are notorious for their impressive esthetic results, demonstrating the ability to replicate the natural tooth structure. The IPS e.max lithium disilicate material provides a natural opalescence and translucency in each crown, making restorations nearly undetectable and providing patients with more confidence in their smiles.

IPS e.max crowns have been around since 2006 and have become one of the most popular options available. They serve as a versatile option for dental restorations as they work for both anterior and posterior crowns, veneers, inlays, onlays, three-unit anterior bridges, and more.  

What Are Zirconia Crowns?

Like IPS e.max crowns, zirconia crowns offer a strong, durable, and functional alternative to metal crowns. Zirconia, or zirconium oxide, is a type of monolithic ceramic made without any additional materials or metals. This material did not become commonplace in dentistry until around 2011.

When selecting zirconia crowns, bear in mind that there are multiple options. The two most common types are monolithic zirconia crowns and layered zirconia. At PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory, we offer both All-Z monolithic solid crowns and PRO-Z Full Layered Zirconia crowns with feldspathic ceramic overlay.

Depending on how the crowns are manufactured, you can attain a look that is surprisingly close to real teeth, with a translucence and fluorescence that mimics a natural tooth. One of the best ways to do this is to hand-polish and pumice the zirconia surface, glaze the material, and then polish the surface again.

When selecting a crown that follows this process, you receive an option that not only looks better but functions better too. Hand polishing the zirconia crowns twice helps create a smooth, natural surface on the crown, reducing the risk of wear on other teeth and minimizing plaque accumulation. As a result, the hand pumicing and polishing process is done on all PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory crowns.

Weighing IPS e.max vs. Zirconia Crowns

Both IPS e.max and zirconia restorations have their advantages, and both are superior when compared to commonplace PFM restorations. Still, it can be a challenge to make the final decision on which option is best for your patient, so how do they measure up against each other? When weighing the differences between e.max and zirconia, you should consider each of the following factors.

Strength and Longevity

The strength and durability of dental crowns are measured by flexural strength. Flexural strength measures how much force or pressure a material can withstand before it breaks. The higher the flexural strength, the more resistant it is.

Obviously, chewing and biting require a considerable amount of force, and you want a crown that can handle the full functionality of your regular teeth. At PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory, our IPS e.max crowns feature a flexural strength of 500 MPa, while our All-Z solid monolithic zirconia crowns have a flexural strength of 1000 MPa. The higher strength of zirconia is especially beneficial for posterior teeth and for patients with a high risk for bruxism.

Although zirconia maintains a higher flexural strength than IPS e.max, both options have developed a strong reputation for their longevity, demonstrating high survival rates in clinical trials. Over a five-year period, one clinical trial demonstrated a 100% survival rate for zirconia-based crowns and a 94.22% survival rate for IPS e.max products. However, zirconia is a newer option in dentistry, so the sample sizes are smaller and more time may be needed to determine their true longevity.


An appearance that mimics the coloration and texture of a real tooth is vital for increasing patient confidence and self-esteem. IPS e.max crowns are highly regarded for their ability to mimic real teeth. The lithium disilicate material has strong light diffusion properties, making the crowns appear more realistic and serving as a favorable choice for anterior teeth.

However, zirconia crowns are not far behind in dental esthetics. Original zirconia crowns were not as realistic as lithium disilicate, but advanced techniques in staining and polishing have made them better at meeting patient desires for coloration and appearance. All-Z Plus High Translucency Crowns are also excellent for generating more light diffusion and a more natural coloration.

Keep in mind that every lab is different, so results may vary on the appearance of crowns. At PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory, our proprietary tinting and shading process is dedicated to designing the most realistic, natural-looking teeth, providing more patient confidence.

Crown Preparation

Both types of crowns are highly versatile and fit for a range of applications, including crowns, veneers, and multi-unit bridges. Still, when preparing for a restoration, you need to consider the preparation requirements before selecting the best option for your patient’s case.

All-Z monolithic zirconia crowns require a minimum reduction of 0.7 mm, but a 1.25 mm reduction is ideal. In zirconia crown restorations, it is important to avoid undercuts and avoid sharp incisal or occlusal edges. Meanwhile, a lithium disilicate crown requires a minimum of 1.0 mm of reduction. However, a three-unit bridge may need a 1.5 mm to 2.0 mm occlusal reduction and a 1.5 mm axial reduction.

From the lab, both IPS e.max and zirconia crowns are designed to be more biocompatible than PFM and friendly to patients with allergies to metal, helping to alleviate some of the general concerns that come with preparation. At PRO-Craft, we utilize our custom library for natural tooth morphology, which also helps to simplify preparation.


Of course, price is a key factor in any procedure. When comparing IPS e.max vs. zirconia on price, you will find a significant difference between the two. Generally, IPS e.max crowns can range anywhere from $110 to $220, depending on whether they are used for posterior or anterior positions.

Meanwhile, zirconia crowns are usually between $100 and $120. PRO-Z Full Layered Zirconia crowns are a bit pricier at around $200, but they are slightly stronger and boast a more natural appearance in exchange for the higher price tag.

Find IPS e.max and Zirconia Crowns at PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory

The best choice for crowns will ultimately depend on your patient and their specific case. Either way, both IPS e.max and zirconia crowns are reliable options. Whatever your choice, PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory can provide you with a secure, long-lasting restoration that leaves your patient excited about the results. We offer both IPS e.max and zirconia crowns to assist you in meeting your patient’s individualized needs.

At PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory, we fabricate all of our products with careful attention to detail, including hand pumicing and polishing all of our restorations and using our custom library for natural tooth morphology. Our careful processes ensure that every patient receives a tooth that maximizes both appearance and functionality. To learn more about our unique process or explore our restoration options, contact us today

Dental Restorations

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