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Know Your Porcelain: A Guide to the New Ceramics

There are a lot of new porcelains on the market and I have been completely overwhelmed trying to figure them out.

Procera, Lava, IPS e.max, CAD-CAM, leucite-reinforced, alumina, zirconia, pressable, etc. etc. etc.

I’ve studied several books, read countless articles, and have attended lectures by gurus and I am now only slightly less confused than before I started.

There’s a couple of reasons why you might also be confused.  First, there haven’t been long-term studies on these materials.  Second, there are competing classification systems.

If you’d like a comprehensive list of articles on the subject, check out the great work done by Ed McLaren on his website.

So here is my classification based upon several other attempts:

Classification of Dental Ceramics

Glass Ceramics:

The traditional feldspathic porcelain you know and love.  Typically just used for veneers and veneering metal-ceramics.  These ceramics are typically crafted using powder and liquid by hand.

Glass-Ceramics with Fillers:

Same glass matrix but now filled with particles for strength.  These can now be used for all kinds of restorations, including full-contour inlays/onlays/crowns, veneers, and ceramic copings.  Strengths and indications for use depend upon the type of particle filler and the manufacturer.  These materials are typically milled using CAD/CAM technology or pressed to the abutment similar to the lost-wax technique for metal copings.

Examples of leucite-reinforced ceramics include: Empress

Examples of lithium-disilicate ceramics include: IPS e.max Press, IPS e.max CAD

Examples of glass-infiltrated ceramics include: In-Ceram Spinell, In-Ceram Alumina

Glass-Free Ceramics, Polycrystalline:

This is the alumina and zirconia stuff you’ve been hearing so much about.  There’s no glass matrix; just densely-sintered aluminum oxide or zirconium oxide.  They are quite strong, especially zirconia.  Depending upon the manufacturer, polycrystalline ceramics are being used for just about everything.  The only catch is that you have to veneer a more esthetic, translucent ceramic on top to make them look great.  Copings and frameworks made with polycrystalline ceramics are always machined by CAD/CAM.

Examples of alumina include: NobelProcera Alumina

Examples of zirconia include: NobelProcera Zirconia, IPS e.max ZirCAD, Lava Zirconia

Flexural Strength of Dental Ceramics


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