Pros And Cons Of Porcelain Dental Options

Posted on: 30 July 2015

Porcelain is a widely used dental material due to its ability to mimic the natural color and finish of teeth. Porcelain has advantages over other tooth-colored material such as composite resin and over metals such as gold or silver amalgam. But there are also ways that porcelain falls behind these other materials.

Veneers and dental crowns are the two most common places that porcelain pops up in cosmetic dental services. What are the pros and cons of using porcelain for each type of dental treatment?

Porcelain Veneers

Veneers are an artificial tooth covering that is custom-fit and bonded to the front of your existing tooth. This treatment works best for teeth that need reshaping or to cover severe staining that won't vanish with teeth whitening.

Porcelain veneers are a high-quality alternative to composite resin bonding, which offers similar coverage as veneers. But the porcelain is more stain resistant than the resin and is also stronger against potential trauma from biting.

But though porcelain is stronger than resin bonding, it's still far less strong than a gold or silver amalgam crown. The trade-off is that the porcelain is more natural looking and a veneer allows for more reshaping opportunities than a crown.

Porcelain Crowns

While veneers only cover the front of the natural tooth, a dental crown can be made to cover the tooth's entire exterior. So crowns are better when you need to cover severe cavity or trauma damage that has left the tooth vulnerable to further damage. And porcelain crowns offer that protection with a natural looking finish.

Fully porcelain crowns suffer the same fragility issue as a porcelain veneer. But crowns offer an additional, middle ground option: metal-backed porcelain.

A metal-backed porcelain filling has a silver amalgam or white zirconia backing with a porcelain upper. The porcelain is still somewhat susceptible to damage but the metal offers a stronger backbone for the material.

One potential downside is that silver-backed porcelain can have a metal line at the bottom of the crown. This shouldn't be noticeable to other people but is worth considering if the crown is going on a tooth near the front of your mouth. In that case, you might want to go with a zirconia-backed crown.

Crowns don't offer much by way of tooth reshaping – the crown actually makes your natural tooth a bit larger – so you want to stick with veneers if reshaping is your primary goal.