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Robert C. Clay, Jr., DDS, Ltd.

Will my crowns look real?

We make every effort to select the best materials for your restorative needs. There are many options available for crowning teeth.  While gold teeth are often considered an older, not so esthetic option, they are still one of the best materials that can be used in dentistry. 


That said, most patients prefer the white crowns that look like real teeth.  The traditional Porcelain Fused to Metal (PFM) crowns have been widely used with great success in dentistry.  These PFM crowns can be made to look very realistic in most cases, but they are what we call “feldspathic porcelain” and this material’s biggest drawback is its low fracture toughness,  essentially, it can crack and chip easily. It also requires quite a bit of tooth to be cut away in order to use as directed. 


Lithium disilicate crowns are a newer option that is also highly esthetic.  This material has no metal substructure to hide and it also has a much higher fracture toughness than the PFM crowns.  This material also requires aggressive tooth prepping to use properly.


Zirconia is a newer material that is our strongest yet.  It is extremely strong and ther is no metal to hide.  Another benefit is the conservative tooth preparation that can be done to use this material.  The downside is that it is not as pretty of a material.  I looks good, but not great.  The manufacturers have developed even newer versions of this material that are starting to look much more like the other materials as far as esthetics, but the strength drops greatly with these options; however it is still much stronger than the traditional PFM crowns.


We choose the material we use based on needs.  Location plays a big role as back teeth do more work and would benefit from more strength, while front teeth don’t do as much of a chewing load, but are required to look good.  As fear as strength goes, the flexural strength (force to break the material) of a PFM is 90 MPa (MegaPascals), lithium disilicate is 400 MPa, and the strongest. Zirconia is 1465 MPa. You don’t have to understand the physics behind flexural strength or megapascals, but it is easy to understand that 1465 is more than 90. Since MPa is a unit of force needed to break the material,  zirconia is exponentially stronger for back teeth and is often used as we like the braun over the beauty. Lithium disilicate or PFM crowns are used more in front for beauty.  We also use labs that can custom tint crowns to get your shade as exact as possible.  We will make sure you are happy with the result you get.

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