If you had a filling or crown before the early 2000s, your dental professional might have used a metal or gold material. Today, dental researchers can now fabricate fillings, crowns, and veneers from another type of material: a single block of ceramic material called lithium disilicate. Because of its versatility, strength, and translucency, lithium disilicate is one of the most widely-used glass-ceramic materials used in fillings and crowns.
Lithium Disilicate 101: Use, Benefits & Care
Fillings, crowns, and veneers are all common types of restorative dentistry and are typically made from a few different kinds of materials, depending on the patient’s specific needs. This particular material is a glass-ceramic composed of lithium (a soft, silvery-white metal) and silicon (a hard, brittle crystalline solid). Your dentist combines it with other crystal-like elements to make anterior veneers, which are shells that go on your front teeth in cosmetic dentistry, as well as full crowns or caps for teeth toward the back of the mouth. The properties of the material, such as a realistic tooth-like color, also make it ideal for dental fillings. If you have a metal filling, though, don’t worry—metal dental fillings are durable, affordable, and still considered an excellent option for fillings.
One of the main benefits of lithium disilicate crowns and fillings is its translucency: meaning it can better match your natural teeth. In fact, according to a 2019 review in BMC health, lithium disilicate is more esthetically translucent than conventional zirconia, which is another type of material used in restorative dentistry. So if you want a great way to maintain your smile’s radiance, lithium disilicate is an excellent option.
Also, if you’re getting a crown made of lithium disilicate, it’s a relatively quick process. In fact, you may be able to enter your dentist's office with a chipped front tooth and leave that same day with a restoration. Using more traditional methods, your dentist would have to send your dental impressions to a lab, and it would take a week or so to receive the final restoration. But with this new approach, your dental appliance is ready to be inserted in about an hour. That's because the crowns are fabricated in-house at the dental office with a CAD/CAM machine, which carves the crown or filling from a solid block of material.
Further, research has shown that, though lithium disilicate is relatively new to the market, the material is long-lasting and resistant. Studies have shown that a lithium disilicate's survival rate was 94.8% after eight years for tooth-supported crowns and 100% after five years for implant-supported crowns. Researchers have also reported lithium disilicate shows a low incidence of mechanical failures, like debonding, fractures, and chipping. So not only does this material make your dental appointments more convenient, but it also means you may need fewer appointments in the future to redo deformed fillings and crowns.
Once you receive a lithium disilicate restoration like a filling or crown, it may take a few days to get used to, but ultimately should feel comfortable and natural. The best way to care for it is to maintain a great oral health care routine, which means flossing daily and brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Also, be sure to check in with your dental care professional during your visits and periodic exams to check your fillings or crowns.
You deserve a confident, healthy smile. And luckily, there are advancements in materials that make it easy to achieve. If you have a lithium disilicate restoration or are planning to get one, you’re in good hands—this material is not only strong and long-lasting but also natural-looking. And that’s something to smile about.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.