Strength and esthetics: How zirconia is changing your dentistry - by Dr. Christina L. Pruitt

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June 2018

Dr. George Tysowsky recently wrote an article on the evolution of a widely used crown and bridge material called zirconia (Tysowsky, G., Dentistry Today, March 2018). As articles go, this was a very technical discussion of the chemistry behind the material and how it came to be used in dentistry. I won’t bore you with the details but it got me thinking: How does this information affect our patients? 

Now more than ever, we seem to pay closer attention to the origin of everything we consume, from organic vegetables to locally sourced ingredients in facial creams. Dental materials should be no different. If you’re getting a tooth-colored crown, it’s important to know what the crown is made from, why we chose this material and what are its risks and benefits.

Zirconia has been used since the mid ‘90s. It’s synthesized from the element Zr through a complex purification process. The result is a smooth, white, extremely strong material that resembles tooth structure. In fact zirconia is so strong, it’s commonly considered “white metal.” This has made the material very opaque and not adequate for highly esthetic areas of the mouth. Most of the time it was used as a substructure with more esthetic porcelain layered over top, creating a weak interface that was prone to chipping.

As early adopters of zirconia, we have been very judicial in its use – to great success.  However something exciting occurred in the fall of 2017.  Scientists found a way to fabricate high-strength zirconia in a cubic form, which really enhanced its esthetic properties. We’ve all heard of “CZ” or knock-off diamond rings, right?  SAME concept! We now have translucent zirconia that meets criteria for both strength and esthetics. 

Zirconia has revolutionized dental restorations. The evolution of zirconia has made it easier to deliver highly functional AND highly esthetic dentistry that will look beautiful and last for decades. 

At NICD, it’s our desire to let our patients know how much thought and energy goes into selecting the best material for your individual situation. We strive to stay on the cutting edge of dental material technology in order to ensure that our treatment plans meet expectations for every patient. If you have any questions about zirconia restorations or any other materials, please feel free to ask. Our knowledgeable team is here for you.

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