Boise Dentist Blog

The professional blog of Doctors Dan Bruce, Steve Bruce and Rob Ririe

Porcelain crowns vs. metal crowns

Dr. Dan Bruce - Monday, July 06, 2009
I often get the question - what is the difference between an all-ceramic crown and a porcelain with metal-based crown.  First of all, crowns that are used in the posterior usually have a core material.  This is either a porcelain-type core of metal.  Then a more esthetic porcelain is placed over the top of the core material.  For many years, metal has been used as the core material.  This is for strength.  The porcelain is bonded to the metal.  The problem is that metal is dark and needs a layer of opaque porcelain to cover it.  Porcelain-fused to metal crowns are typically more opaque than all ceramic crowns.  The other problem some people have is that porcelain and metal crowns can show a dark line if the gum tissue recedes.  This can be fixed by placing what is called a porcelain butt shoulder in which the porcelain goes all the way to the tooth. 

All ceramic crowns can either be made without a core, which is called a porcelain jacket crown.  These crowns rely on the bond between the underlying tooth and porcelain for strength.  Other porcelain crowns have a ceramic core, such as alumina or zirconia.  These cores are incredibly strong, and do not need as much opaque porcelain to cover them. 

Porcelain/metal crowns still have their place in dentistry.  All-ceramic crowns provide great esthetics and show promise for long-term results, but we do not have the years of data associated with porcelain/metal crowns.  There are many factors associated with crown choice - biting force, area of the mouth, and surrounding colors of the other teeth are just a few. 

I use both all-ceramic and porcelain/metal crowns (And even gold crowns when indicated).  The most important thing to do when selecting a crown material is to ask your dentist what your situation is and let them know your concerns.