What’s The Difference Between Porcelain Veneers And Zirconia

What’s The Difference Between Porcelain Veneers And Zirconia

porcelain veneers vs zirconia

Dental veneers are a very popular choice by those looking to make quick colour and shape changes to their teeth, transforming smiles in just a few weeks. Porcelain veneers have been used with great success over the last few decades but as the popularity of cosmetic veneers has expanded so has the range of these tooth-coloured covers for teeth. It can be confusing. Porcelain veneers? Zirconia veneers? What are they and what’s the difference? 

The highly skilled aesthetic dentists here at Smile Stories provide clarity and explain the difference between porcelain veneers and zirconia veneers so you can make an informed decision alongside your aesthetic dentist. 

What Are Porcelain and Zirconia Veneers?

Porcelain and zirconia are both types of ceramic that can be used to make dental veneers. Porcelain is a more popular choice among dentists. 

Historically porcelain veneers have been found to mimic the natural colour, translucency, and lustre of teeth better than zirconia. They look more like real teeth than zirconia.  Newer zirconia materials have recently been created which are more translucent than before.  

Porcelain veneers bond to the tooth better but zirconia may resist fracture or chips better. 

The Properties of Porcelain Veneers & Zirconia Veneers

Comparing the properties of veneers made from porcelain and zirconia.

Porcelain Veneers

Porcelain veneers are thin pieces of ceramic adhered to the front of your teeth to transform your smile. They look like natural teeth and provide strength and stability. It is often the material of choice for dental veneers as they look aesthetically pleasing, and are strong, durable and long-lasting

A Range of Ceramic Materials Are Used To Make Porcelain Veneers

Modern porcelain veneers are made from a number of dental ceramics including lithium disilicate (Emax), leucite (Lumineers) material and feldspathic ceramic porcelain. In general, Emax veneers are considered to be a more conservative option and are suitable for patients with healthy teeth structure, while feldspathic veneers can be more suitable for patients with more extensive dental problems, or patients who have very high esthetic expectations. 

Porcelain Veneers Can Be Made Thin or Ultra-Thin

Thin and ultra-thin veneers with thicknesses of 0.5 and 0.1 – 0.3mm respectively are available.

Porcelain Looks Like Real Teeth

These veneers are individually sculpted for each patient so it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between them and a natural tooth. Until recently, zirconia veneers were not translucent, so didn’t look like natural teeth so we’re only used for crowns on the back teeth.

Porcelain is Resist Staining

Unlike your natural teeth, they resist staining by coffee, tea and red wine. 

Porcelain Veneers Last Longer

Modern porcelains can last 15-20 years when looked after.

Porcelain Are Easy to Adhere to the Teeth and Bond Well

All types of ceramic can be applied with a standard technique. Zirconia veneers are applied using a different protocol. Once adhered to the teeth porcelain veneers are hard to budge. Zirconia bond less easily and are more likely to pop off.

Porcelain Are Not Suitable For Bruxism

Under excessive pressures – like bruxism or when teeth are used inappropriately porcelain veneers can fracture. If you clench and grind your teeth zirconia may be more suitable.  

Zirconia Veneers

Zirconia veneers are made from zirconia, or zirconium dioxide which is a super strong ceramic, dubbed ceramic steel. They are practically unbreakable. 

The problem with this ceramic (until recently that is) is that it is opaque, it’s not very translucent and the veneers don’t look like natural teeth. Meaning it’s not very aesthetic and the veneers looked obviously like fake teeth. Think Turkey Teeth. So it has only been used to make crowns for the back teeth or as a framework for veneers covered with feldspathic porcelain. 

Zirconia coated with porcelain has been used for those patients who clench and grind their teeth. 

Newer Style Zirconia Is Strong and Aesthetic

A newer material made from zirconia mixed with aluminium and lithium dioxide has been created. This new zirconia is incredibly strong, translucent and aesthetically pleasing. Thin and ultrathin types have been made that offer many benefits over porcelain veneers.

Zirconia Is Incredibly Strong

They are very strong so resist breaking at try-in (when the fit, shape and colour are checked before the final application) and when they are cemented into place. This is advantageous over some types of porcelain veneer as they can be brittle until cemented into place. It may be easier to manipulate them before application if alterations to the fit and shape are required. 

Zirconia Veneers Don’t Bond Well

However, conventional and newer zirconia veneers do not bond very well to the teeth. So these veneers are more likely to debond or fall off. 

The reason for this is that zirconia is resistant to acid, so the surface can’t be etched, and it can’t be roughened up. The etching process helps the dental cement stick porcelain veneers to the tooth enamel.   

Recently newer methods of bonding have been trialled and they look promising. However, they have not been in use long enough to know how long they will remain bonded. The reduced bond strength is the reason that zirconia is more frequently used as a crown rather than veneer.

Zirconia Can Be More Expensive

A special bonding procedure needs to be used to adhere zirconia veneers to the teeth. This is more time-consuming and the price reflects this. Only dentists trained in this special procedure can fit them and again this is reflected in the price – they are more expensive. 

The translucency of Zirconia Used To Be An Issue

Older zirconia veneers were more opaque, their translucency was only around 70% of that of lithium disilicate. Newer ones are more translucent.

Older Types Lost Their Whiteness

Another issue with conventional zirconia veneers is that over time they lost their whiteness, it isn’t known if this is an issue with newer more translucent varieties. 

Zirconia Have A Shorter Lifespan

Conventional zirconia veneers last 5-7 years, but the lifespan of newer forms is unknown. Compare this to porcelain veneers that survive 15-20 years if looked after. 

Some dentists who have worked with zirconia veneers suggest they can last 20-30 years but there is no scientific data to back this up.

Which Type Of Veneers Are Best For Me? Porcelain or Zirconia –

Both types of veneers are strong, durable and stain resistant. They are also biocompatible and non-toxic, making them safe to use in the oral environment. Similar to modern porcelain, newer types of zirconia can look as natural as your own teeth and can be made thin or ultra-thin. 

Whilst there are issues with bonding zirconia veneers they are often preferred in cases where a high level of strength is required for example in bruxism patients.

Porcelain and zirconia have their own unique properties, and the choice between porcelain and zirconia veneers will depend on the clinical case and the patient’s expectations, preferences and budget.

If you are looking for dental veneers get in touch with our aesthetic dentists who are highly skilled and trained in fitting multiple types of veneers. We can offer advice on which type of veneer you are most suited for. 

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