Porcelain vs. Zirconia Crowns: Weighing the Pros and Cons

pretty woman making a choice about porcelain dental crowns“True-to-life” is the current buzzword in dental restorations. All-metal and porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns still have their place, but their corner of the restorative dental practice is numbered. Today’s patients prefer porcelain and zirconia crowns because both offer strength and lifelike esthetics. If your dentist has suggested you need a dental crown placed, how do you know which type of crown is right for you? Learn the facts and discuss your goals and concerns with your dentist.

Pros and Cons of Porcelain

An industry staple since the late 19th century, porcelain crowns are made from ceramic (like the kind your grandma’s favorite teacup is made from) that contains different compounds like mica, silica, and Lucite.

A few advantages of porcelain for dental crowns include:

  • They can achieve a very high level of true-to-life esthetics in the hands of a true craftsman.
  • Strong and can hold up to normal daily wear and tear for many years.
  • Using CEREC technology, porcelain crowns can be design, crafted, and placed on-site in a single appointment.
  • Generally require less tooth preparation.

The main disadvantages of porcelain crowns include:

  • Not a good choice for the back of the mouth, an area that endures more pressure and wear than the front.
  • Can chip and accumulate stains.

Pros and Cons of Zirconia

Zirconia crowns first became widely used in the 1990s. This type of ceramic contains about 90% zirconium oxide, lending it unparalleled strength and biocompatibility.

Some advantages of zirconia crowns include:

  • If it has a porcelain outer sheath or has been expertly glazed and tinted, a zirconia crown can achieve a high level of realism.
  • Thanks to newer monolithic zirconia (single, solid blocks of zirconia), this type of crown is nearly unbreakable and will stand up to the harsh environment of the back of the mouth better than all-porcelain.
  • Can be used with CEREC technology to place one-visit crowns.

Significant drawbacks of zirconia are:

  • Since zirconia is a relatively new development and many of the first zirconia crowns are still less than a couple decades old, there have not been many studies of how zirconia ages and how it stands up to wear and staining in the long term.
  • The exceptionally hard nature of zirconia could wear against the opposing teeth, especially if the wearer has a history of grinding their teeth.

About Brad Greenfield, DDS

Dr. Brad Greenfield practices family, restorative, cosmetic, and sedation dentistry with a holistic approach to patient care and comfort. To schedule an appointment at our Lake Orion, MI dentist office, call (248) 693-6213. We proudly serve patients of all ages in Clarkston, Auburn Hills, Oxford, Rochester Hills, and neighboring communities.


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