When it comes to choosing materials for dental restorations, improvements in manufacturing processes of ceramics like zirconia have allowed many dental labs to opt for non-metal solutions with confidence. By combining this with the ongoing integration of CAD/CAM technologies into their workflows, they can now manufacture both esthetic anterior and durable posterior restorations. With patients increasingly demanding natural and long-lasting results, CAD/CAM enables dental labs to fulfill these expectations and create full-contour ceramic restorations, made from materials like high-translucency, multilayered zirconia, that are designed to provide long-term solutions.
Otherwise known as zirconium dioxide, zirconia has the potential to be processed to possess a tooth-like translucency. This esthetic promise, combined with its strength1 and biocompatibility,have helped to make zirconia a viable, long-lasting solution for dental restorations.
The ability of this material to be built up in a multi-layered manner is what allows for restorations to emulate the translucency and color gradation of natural dentition. Zirconia’s superior level of bending strength and similar fracture toughness, in comparison to other ceramic-based materials, have made it an extremely popular choice in dental labs worldwide.
This hasn’t always been the case. Early generations of ceramic restorative materials faced issues. They were either too weak or in the case of some newer, high-strength ceramic materials, unable to be processed by conventional technologies and methods. To provide patients with restorations that were both functional and visually pleasing, the methods of manufacturing and handling these materials needed to be rethought.
CAD/CAM’s integration into dental laboratory workflows has been driven in part by the increasing adoption of zirconia as a metal substitute. This relationship does not only go one way, however. Advances in dental CAD/CAM technology have been crucial for the development of high-strength ceramics.
The improved mechanical properties of current forms of zirconia, combined with their excellent natural esthetics, have helped to make this ceramic an increasingly popular option. Without CAD/CAM technologies, well-fitted prostheses using these materials would be extremely difficult to fabricate due to the material’s increased flexural strength and fracture toughness. CAD/CAM dental labs are able to design, mill and stain/glaze robust zirconia restorations in a controlled and predictable manner, leading to less stress for all involved. It is clear that CAD/CAM is integral to the continued success of zirconia as a restorative material.