Dental Crowns: The Strongest Isn’t Always the Best

Aug 31, 2016, by Dr. Becky Coats
Reconstructive dentistry has changed dramatically in recent years, thanks to the invention and spread of many new technologies. But one of the most visible innovations is the use of very strong ceramics in dental restorations like dental crowns. This includes ceramics that are 17 times stronger than materials used for porcelain veneers and other restorations.

This allows us to use ceramics in situations where we used to have to rely on metal (new ceramics are as strong as titanium), but it doesn’t mean that we always want to be using the strongest ceramics available. There are many reasons why we either don’t want the strongest material, or don’t need it. It’s best to trust your dentist’s judgment about what is the right material for your situation.

Strong Materials May Not Be as Attractive

Ceramics have an inherent benefit over metals when it comes to restorations. They can be naturally colored and therefore don’t stand out as automatically, but that doesn’t mean they’re all equally attractive.
The strongest restorations aren't always the best
The strongest ceramic we are currently using for restorations is zirconia. Zirconia can be made white or an off-white to match the color of your teeth, but it won’t generally pass for a natural tooth. Zirconia isn’t translucent like your natural tooth material. In natural teeth, light passes through the enamel and penetrates to the deeper layers underneath, but with zirconia, the light doesn’t penetrate at all. It gives a flat surface that doesn’t look natural.

This is not at all a problem in the back of your mouth. A zirconia crown is likely to be unnoticed in the back of your mouth. Even if someone is looking in your mouth while you talk, they likely won’t see the zirconia crown.

But if we put a zirconia crown in the front of your mouth, it will be very noticeable in comparison to the natural teeth on either side of it.

The good news is that you don’t have to go back to weak materials to get an attractive alternative. Lithium disilicate is a great compromise. It has translucency very similar to natural tooth material, and it’s about 10 times stronger than your natural tooth material, seven times stronger than older veneering materials, so it’s strong enough for most applications.

Strong Materials Can Damage Natural Teeth

As we mentioned, most dental restorations are stronger than natural teeth, and zirconia is much, much stronger. It’s nearly 30 times stronger than tooth enamel!

So in punishing conditions where we might think we need the durability of a zirconia crown, we can use one and it will survive. But what about the natural tooth that opposes it? In that circumstance, the natural tooth is likely to suffer wear or actually break under the strain. And that’s not going to help your smile at all.

When Improperly Placed, Strong Crowns Can Contribute to TMJ

Your entire bite system has to work together. That includes teeth that oppose one another, but it also includes your jaw muscles and joints. When a dental crown is placed but it isn’t properly fitted, it can put stress not just on the opposing tooth, it can stress your muscles and joints.

When a dental crown prevents your jaw joint from finding a comfortable rest position, it can trigger excessive muscle tension in your jaws. And sometimes a dental crown can serve as a fulcrum to allow jaw muscles to displace the jaw joint.

A Neuromuscular Dentist for Reconstructive Dentistry

Relying on the strength of restorations is not the best approach to getting the best reconstructive dentistry. Instead, a neuromuscular dentist can help balance the forces on your dental crown to ensure proper fit so that you don’t need the extra strength. And it means that your dental restorations won’t damage your natural teeth, muscles, or jaw joints.

In the Dallas area, Dr. Becky Coats is a highly trained neuromuscular dentist. She has extensive experience providing her patients with dental restorations that are attractive, comfortable, and highly durable. She has also given many patients relief from TMJ symptoms that their doctor and other dentists couldn’t help with.

To learn more about what dental restoration is right for you, please call (817) 481-6888 today for an appointment at Grapevine Dental Care.