Porcelain Fused to Metal Crown: Benefits & Drawbacks

If you need a dental crown but are unsure what type to choose, you may want to consider a porcelain fused-to-metal crown. This popular choice in dentistry combines the strength of metal with the natural tooth-like appearance of porcelain, making it a versatile option for restoring damaged teeth. A porcelain-fused-to-metal crown not only enhances your beautiful smile but also plays a crucial role in maintaining your oral health by protecting the natural tooth structure. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns (PFM) and provide maintenance tips to keep them looking great for years.

What is a Porcelain Fused-to a Metal Crown?

A porcelain-fused-to-metal crown (PFM), or metal-ceramic crown, is a dental restoration that combines the strength of metal with the aesthetic appeal of porcelain. It consists of two layers – a metal base and an outer porcelain layer.

The metal layer provides strength and durability, while the outer porcelain layer gives it a natural-looking appearance that blends in with your surrounding teeth.

Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns are widely used to restore the shape and function of damaged or decayed teeth. They are particularly recommended after root canal treatment to protect the tooth from further damage and to maintain optimal oral health. Additionally, these crowns are ideal for addressing tooth discoloration and are often used in dental bridges to replace missing teeth, ensuring a seamless and beautiful smile.

Benefits of a Porcelain Fused to Metal Crown

  • Strength and durability: Both layers of the porcelain fused to metal crown (PFM) are very strong and durable, making them a good choice for posterior teeth (molars and premolars) that receive a lot of chewing force.
  • Aesthetically pleasing: The outer layer of porcelain gives the crown a natural-looking appearance that blends in with your surrounding teeth. This makes them an aesthetic option for front teeth (incisors and canines).
  • Cost-effective: PFM crowns are usually less expensive than all-ceramic crowns, making them a more budget-friendly option for many patients.
Porcelain Fused to Metal Crown and Bridge
Porcelain-fused-to-metal crown and bridge consist of two layers – a metal base and an outer layer of porcelain.

How is the Dental Crown Procedure Done?

The porcelain-fused-to-metal crown procedure requires multiple dental visits. Initially, the dental crown procedure begins with the preparation of the affected tooth. This involves tooth reduction, where a portion of the natural tooth structure is removed to create space for the crown. This step is crucial for ensuring that the final crown will fit properly and align with the surrounding teeth.

Once the tooth has been prepared, dental impressions or a digital scan are taken to capture an accurate model of the tooth and surrounding area. These dental impressions or scans are then sent to a dental laboratory, where a skilled technician will create the dental crown.

The lab technician first constructs a metal framework that provides strength and durability. This framework is then layered with opaque porcelain, which establishes a strong bond between the metal and ceramic material, and masks the dark color of the metal base.

While the permanent crown is being fabricated, a temporary crown is placed over the prepared tooth to protect it and maintain function. It allows you to continue eating and speaking normally until the permanent crown is ready.

Once the dental laboratory completes the permanent crown, it is returned to the dentist for final placement. The dentist will remove the temporary crown, clean the prepared tooth, and cement the permanent crown in place, ensuring a precise fit and comfortable bite. This dental crown procedure not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of your smile but also restores functionality and maintains oral health.

Drawbacks of a Porcelain Fused to Metal Crown

There are also some drawbacks to consider when it comes to a porcelain fused to metal crown.

  • Aesthetic concern: PFM crowns are not as aesthetically pleasing as all-porcelain crowns due to the potential visibility of the metal margin. The base metal layer can become noticeable at the edges, especially if gum recession occurs, resulting in a dark line around the crown.
  • Abrasion of the opposing natural teeth: Porcelain may wear down the opposing natural teeth during normal chewing because it is harder than natural tooth enamel.
  • Chipping of porcelain: Porcelain can chip off over time due to wear and tear, revealing the metal layer underneath. Your dentist may repair or replace a chipped crown with exposed metal.
  • Metal allergies: In rare cases, patients may develop an allergic reaction to the base metal alloy in the porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns.

Alternative Options

Dental crowns can be made from a variety of materials, each offering unique benefits and drawbacks. Choosing the right type of crown material depends on several factors, including the location of the tooth, the patient’s aesthetic preferences, and budget considerations. Some common types of crown materials include metal, ceramic, and resin.

All-metal crowns, made from non-precious or precious metals like gold crowns, provide a strong and durable solution. All-metal crowns are less expensive than porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns and do not cause abrasion to opposing natural teeth. However, their obvious metallic appearance can be a drawback for those concerned about the aesthetic outcome.

All-ceramic or all-porcelain crowns offer a more natural appearance compared to PFM crowns, as they lack an underlying metal base layer, for example, zirconia crowns and Emax crowns. Ceramic crowns are often the preferred choice for front teeth due to their excellent aesthetics and ability to blend seamlessly with natural teeth. Additionally, all-ceramic crowns do not cause allergic reactions in patients with metal allergies. However, they tend to be more expensive than PFM crowns.

All-resin crowns are another alternative, typically used as temporary crowns. While they are less expensive and easier to produce, they lack the durability and wear resistance of other crown materials, making them less suitable for long-term use. Temporary crowns can become chipped if not handled with proper care.

Discuss all your treatment options with your dentist so you can make an informed decision about which type of crown is best for your needs and budget.

How to Care for Your Porcelain Fused to Metal Crown?

Although porcelain-fused metal crowns are strong and durable, they require proper care and maintenance to ensure they last. Here are some dental care tips:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene practices by brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Pay special attention to brushing carefully around the crown and between your teeth to effectively remove plaque and food particles.
  • Floss daily to clean between your teeth and under the gum line, ensuring thorough oral hygiene and the longevity of your dental crown.
  • Visit your dentist for regular dental checkups and professional dental cleaning at least twice a year so they can catch any problems early on.
  • Avoid chewing on hard objects such as pencils, ice cubes, or fingernails, which can chip or damage your crown.
  • Don’t use your teeth as tools to open packages or remove staples.
  • Don’t use abrasive toothpaste to clean your crown, as this may cause scratches or discoloration over time.
  • Quit smoking or using any tobacco products because they can cause gum disease and receding gums, making the metal layer of the crown visible.
  • Wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports to protect your teeth from damage.

Following these tips can help you ensure that your porcelain-fused-metal crown lasts longer and maintains its aesthetic appeal.

Conclusion

Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns are a strong and durable restoration option that can protect decayed teeth and restore their natural appearance. These crowns consist of a metal base layer and an outer porcelain layer, combining strength with aesthetic appeal. PFM crowns offer a cost-effective solution that can effectively withstand chewing forces, particularly in the posterior teeth, while still providing a natural look.

However, there are some drawbacks to consider. The potential for gray margins appearing at the gum line, abrasions to opposing natural teeth, chipping of the porcelain, and possible metal allergies are important factors to discuss with your dental practice. Alternative options, such as zirconia crowns or Emax crowns, made from a variety of materials, may offer different benefits and should be considered.

Take the time to discuss all your options with your dentist and weigh the pros and cons of PFM crowns before making a decision. With proper dental care and good oral hygiene practices, your PFM crown can last for many years, helping you maintain excellent oral health and a beautiful smile.

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