Dentists and sculptors have been making dental crowns for centuries out of various substances, from gold to porcelain to resin. Today, you might step out of the chair with a zirconia crown. This relatively new material blends the strength of metals with the natural look of porcelain, and is becoming increasingly popular for all kinds of tooth repairs.
Background of Zirconia Crowns
According to the American Dental Association, crowns have been used since before 200 AD (you can thank the ancient Etruscans) to restore the form and function of badly broken or worn teeth. They protect teeth and make them strong enough to function properly in the mouth again. Crowns are also called caps.
In recent history, crowns have been made of cast gold alloys that are strong enough to withstand the forces of chewing. Where appearance is more important, dentists use porcelain to match the color of natural teeth, but this material is more fragile than gold and can sometimes chip. Zirconia is one of several newer ceramic-like materials that combine the strength of metal with the aesthetic appeal of porcelain. A report by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health details the pros and cons of mixing and matching crown construction. While porcelain-fused crowns have been used for decades, newer materials like zirconia are still undergoing continuous development to improve their clinical performance.
Advantages of Zirconia Crowns
Zirconia has some distinct advantages as a material for crowns:
- It can be matched to the color of existing teeth.
- It is extremely strong, requiring less tooth preparation than other materials.
- It can be layered with porcelain, further improving its aesthetic appearance.
- Zirconia crowns can be bonded or cemented, giving your dentist more options.
- Zirconia has the ability to be "milled" or shaped in the dental office. In other words, your crown might be made and delivered in one appointment, possibly saving you time and expense!
- This material is biocompatible, meaning it doesn't cause adverse reactions when implanted in the human body.
Disadvantages of Zirconia Crowns
A zirconia crown does, however, have some disadvantages. Even though it's closer to a natural tooth color than gold, it is very opaque, making it difficult to match the shade of highly visible teeth in the front of the mouth. Zirconia is also so strong that it can be difficult for your dentist to adjust it to even out your bite and so abrasive that it can accelerate the wear on an opposing uncapped tooth.
Cost of Zirconia Crowns
The fee for implanting a crown depends on the material, the difficulty involved, and other factors like insurance coverage, but many practices charge the same rate for a variety of materials and let a dentist make the wisest choice. These days, it's more and more common that that choice is zirconia.