PFM vs. Zirconia: Which Material Is Best for Your Patient?

November 23, 2022

PFM vs. Zirconia
Greg Schubert | Blog Author at Pro-Craft

Written by:
Greg Schubert

A proper tooth restoration should balance the ability to increase the functionality and the appearance of a patient’s damaged or decayed tooth while lasting as long as possible. Two of the most common materials used in tooth restorations are porcelain fused to metals (PFMs) and Zirconia.

Both of these materials help restore the capability and presentation of the teeth, but they are not entirely the same when placed in a side-by-side comparison. So which does a better job? When searching for the best material for your patient’s restorations, you should have a full understanding of the pros and cons of each.

PFM (Porcelain Fused to Metals)

PFM restorations have been the go-to option for dental crowns and restorations for over 30 years. These crowns are fabricated using a base of metal alloy cemented on the damaged or decayed tooth with a porcelain exterior placed over the metal. As a result, PFM combines strength and esthetics in its design.

Advantages of PFM

PFM has been trusted by dentists for decades, proving to be a reliable option for esthetically pleasing, durable restorations. This common material also has a range of studies supporting its effectiveness. That said, using PFM has several advantages:

  • Highly studied as an effective option for restorations
  • Proven effective through years of use
  • Can be used in all areas around the mouth
  • Effective for bridges and crowns for multiple teeth
  • Most affordable restoration option

Possible Drawbacks of PFM

Although PFM restorations look similar to your natural teeth, they aren’t perfect. PFM crowns use metal covered by an opaque, naturally colored porcelain cover. As a result, the crown will likely be noticeable as different from your other teeth and not as visually appealing as other options. 

Plus, over time, the metal included in the restoration may start to show around the gumline, especially if the gumline starts to recede. Metals can also cause allergic reactions in some patients, making dentists think twice before choosing PFM for crowns.

Why Choose PFM

PFM has been around for a long time, making it a proven safe and effective option for crowns. This material is also excellent for patients on a budget, allowing them to save money on their restorations. PFM is becoming less common in the industry but still has a strong track record of longevity and effectiveness. With the chance to provide a long-lasting but affordable restoration, they still have their place.


Zirconia is a type of ceramic, also known as zirconium oxide, that can be placed directly over a worn, damaged or decayed tooth. This material was first introduced as a strong option for dental crowns around 2010. Initially, zirconia was used as an alternative to PFM in patients with allergies to the metal used in those restorations. However, the strength and capability of zirconia quickly made it a standard choice. Although zirconia is newer than PFM, it has become the preferred material amongst dentists.

Advantages of Zirconia

Zirconia has become so popular in such a short time for good reason, as dentists trust it to provide a long-lasting, natural-looking smile. This strong material offers the following advantages:

  • Is highly durable and less susceptible to chips or cracks than porcelain
  • Easier to mold into a size and shape that fits the surrounding teeth
  • Contains no metal and is less likely to bother patients with allergies
  • Shows no metal lining around the gumline
  • Helps prevent future tooth decay
  • Appears more lifelike and esthetic, looking like a natural tooth
  • Improves your bite
  • Supports the health of your surrounding teeth

Possible Drawbacks of Zirconia

There are many benefits to zirconia, especially as a newer option that seems to raise the bar for restorations. However, as with anything new, there are still question marks. Despite its popularity, zirconia was only introduced about ten years ago, so it has not yet proven itself to be able to withstand the test of time. Although all signs point to zirconia being the material of the future, some people may have reservations until time allows for more studies about how long-lasting the material really is.

Zirconia is also more expensive than PFM, ceramic and other metal crowns, so some patients may opt for a different material depending on their budget.

Why Choose Zirconia

More and more dental professionals are turning to zirconia as a standard for their restorations. The combination of benefits associated with zirconia is too substantial to overlook, from its impressive strength to its natural appearance. Most importantly, zirconia is also friendlier to the body with better biocompatibility since it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction or inflammation when introduced.

What Is The Difference Between PFM and Zirconia Crowns?

Although both of these common restoration materials have their advantages and potential drawbacks, the best way to choose between them is to look at them side by side. Before settling on your final decision, you should consider the following factors.

PFM vs. Zirconia Cost

One of the biggest advantages of PFM is its affordability. Zirconia is more expensive than most other materials that can be used for dental crowns. However, as with most things, you get what you pay for. Zirconia crowns are more expensive for a reason, often providing added durability and a more natural appearance as a result. Still, if a patient is on a budget, PFM is a more than respectable choice and likely the better option.

Zirconia vs. PFM Strength

In a direct comparison, zirconia is undoubtedly stronger than PFM. In fact, zirconia can be as much as three times stronger than porcelain. The strength of zirconia makes it more able to last through the force of chewing and biting. Although not as strong as zirconia, PFM is still well-known for its durability

Not only is zirconia stronger, but it also has a less harsh effect on the surrounding teeth, causing less stress to them. Porcelain can have a rougher texture and have a tendency to rub against the surrounding teeth and erode the enamel.

PFM vs. Zirconia Bridges Longevity

The superior strength and durability of zirconia bridges certainly points to positive longevity. Dentists expect that zirconia can last a lifetime. Still, zirconia restorations may need more time in the industry before we see a true answer about their longevity.

Although there is plenty of reason to put your faith in zirconia, there haven’t been nearly as many clinical studies surrounding the material simply due to the fact that it has not been around as long. If you prefer to go by results than theoretical outcomes, then PFM has a longer track record to back it up.

Find The Best Material for Your Patient

Whether you choose PFM or zirconia for your patient’s restoration, you know they will end up with a reliable and durable new crown. Still, zirconia restorations are the more modern option and have become the mainstream choice in the industry for a reason.

To learn more about the total differences between PFM and zirconia, contact us at PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory. We are an industry leader in creating digital restorations and have met our clients’ restorative needs for over 40 years. Don’t make the tough decisions alone. PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory is here to help you support your patient however possible. 

Dental Restorations

Keep Reading

Zirconia Crown Prep
February 15, 2023

Guide to Zirconia Crown Preparation

Zirconia crowns have quickly become one of the most popular materials for dental restorations. Both patients and providers appreciate zirconia crowns for their durability, strength, translucency and...

Read More
PFM Crown Prep
March 01, 2023

PFM Crown Preparation: Guidelines & Dimensions

A quality porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crown means nothing if it isn’t prepared properly. PFM crowns have long been some of the most popular options for dental restorations. These crowns provide...

Read More
Zirconia Dental Crowns
December 14, 2022

Advantages & Disadvantages of Zirconia Dental Crowns

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...

Read More

As an industry leader in CAD/CAM technology, we have taken the fabrication of digital restorations to a new & exciting level of service.

25791 Jefferson Ave, Murrieta, CA 92562 

Search The Site