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What can you not do with porcelain teeth?

Porcelain teeth, also known as dental porcelain, are used in dentistry to make dental restorations like crowns, bridges, veneers and inlays/onlays. They provide a lifelike appearance and are known for their longevity and durability. However, despite their many advantages, there are some limitations to what can be done with porcelain teeth. In this article, we will explore the capabilities and restrictions of porcelain dental work.

What are porcelain teeth?

Porcelain teeth are made from ceramic materials that are shaped and colored to resemble natural teeth. The earliest porcelains were feldspathic porcelains, made from a mixture of quartz, kaolin and feldspar. These days, other ceramic materials like lithium disilicate and zirconia are also used.

Some key properties of porcelain teeth:

  • Appearance – Porcelain is opaque like natural tooth structure and can be stained to match the color of surrounding teeth.
  • Strength – Porcelain is very strong and durable.
  • Biocompatibility – Modern porcelains are chemically inert and do not interact with oral tissues or fluids.

These characteristics make porcelain restorations ideal for both appearance and function.

What dental treatments use porcelain?

Some common uses of porcelain in dentistry include:


Crowns are tooth-shaped caps placed over damaged teeth to restore their shape, size and strength. Porcelain crowns provide durability along with a natural, lifelike appearance.


Bridges span the space where one or more teeth are missing. Attached crowns anchor the false teeth on either side of the gap. Porcelain is commonly used for the crowns and false teeth in bridges.


Veneers are thin shells bonded to the front of teeth. Porcelain veneers improve the color, shape and position of front teeth.


Inlays and onlays are restorations that fit within or over the biting surfaces of back teeth. They are commonly made from porcelain to fill cavities and replace damaged areas.

Advantages of porcelain teeth

Some of the major advantages of porcelain dental restorations include:

  • Appearance – Porcelain is famous for its lifelike translucency. Properly shaded porcelain blends beautifully with surrounding natural teeth.
  • Durability – Properly constructed porcelain restorations can last 10-30 years with proper care.
  • Stain resistance – Porcelain resists staining from coffee, tea, tobacco and other substances.
  • Biocompatibility – Porcelain is chemically stable and non-allergenic.
  • Preserves tooth structure – Porcelain veneers and inlays conserve healthy tooth structure compared to full coverage crowns.

These benefits make porcelain a top choice for many restorations, especially for the front visible teeth.

Limitations of porcelain teeth

However, there are some things that should not or cannot be done with porcelain dental work:

Not suitable for large bridges

Porcelain is prone to fracture under excess force. For large bridges with several false teeth, metal substructures are usually required to provide strength. All-porcelain bridges are typically limited to 1-2 units.

Not ideal for back teeth crowns

Back teeth bear the brunt of chewing forces. Although strong, porcelain may chip or fracture over time under heavy loads. Metal crowns are often preferred for molars and premolars.

Cannot be permanently whitened

The color of porcelain restorations is set during fabrication. While surface stains may be removed, the core color cannot be permanently altered with whitening treatments. New restorations are needed if a color change is desired.

Prone to chipping

Porcelain is glass-like and brittle. Chipping or fracturing may occur under very heavy biting forces or trauma. Good oral habits are important to prevent such damage.

Not ideal for patients with bruxism

Bruxism refers to grinding or clenching of teeth. This puts severe stresses on restorations that can quickly damage porcelain work. Such patients often need metal restorations made of alloys.

Considerations for porcelain dental work

Here are some other factors to consider regarding porcelain teeth:

  • More tooth reduction is needed compared to metal restorations.
  • generally cost more than metal alternatives.
  • Require good communication between patient, dentist and lab technician.
  • Shade matching to natural teeth is an art – technicians are skilled but an exact shade match is not always possible.


In summary:

  • Porcelain is ideal for crowns, veneers, inlays/onlays and anterior bridges.
  • Limitations include suitability for large bridges, back tooth crowns, permanent whitening and patients with bruxism.
  • Proper case selection, technique and cementation are vital for longevity of porcelain restorations.
  • Regular dental visits and excellent oral hygiene help prevent damage and maximize the lifespan of porcelain dental work.

When planned carefully, porcelain dental restorations provide an excellent combination of durability, function and lifelike esthetics. However, material limitations mean other options may be better in some situations. Consult your dentist to determine if porcelain is right for your dental needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can porcelain teeth be whitened?

Porcelain teeth cannot be permanently whitened since the color is baked into the restoration. However, surface stains may be removed through professional cleaning. If a color change is desired, new porcelain restorations will need to be fabricated.

Do porcelain teeth look fake?

With modern materials and techniques, porcelain teeth should not look obviously fake. However, poorly matched shade or improper contours may result in a visible difference from natural teeth. Communication with the dentist and technician helps achieve a seamless esthetic outcome.

How long do porcelain teeth last?

With proper oral hygiene and regular dental care, porcelain restorations usually last 10-30 years. However, factors like bruxism, trauma or poor cementation may shorten longevity. Annual dental exams help maximize the lifespan of porcelain dental work.

Can porcelain teeth be repaired if chipped?

Small porcelain chips can sometimes be smoothed and polished to minimize their appearance. However, large fractures or repeat breakage will require replacement of the restoration. Porcelain cannot be successfully glued back together like natural teeth.

Are porcelain teeth right for me?

A dentist will evaluate factors like your oral habits, bite force, type of restoration needed and esthetic desires to determine if porcelain is a suitable option for you. Porcelain may not be ideal for patients with bruxism or those needing extensive bridgework. Discuss your case with your dentist.

Comparison of porcelain and alternative restorative materials

Property Porcelain Composite Gold
Strength High Moderate Very high
Durability 10-30 years 5-10 years 10-30 years
Esthetics Excellent Very good Poor
Cost High Low Moderate

This table summarizes how porcelain compares to other common restorative materials in terms of strength, longevity, appearance and cost. Key differences are highlighted.

Caring for porcelain dental restorations

To maximize the longevity of porcelain teeth, proper care and maintenance are essential:

  • Maintain excellent oral hygiene with regular brushing, flossing and professional cleanings.
  • Avoid biting or chewing hard objects like ice, nuts and hard candies.
  • Wear a nightguard if you grind your teeth.
  • See your dentist immediately if a porcelain restoration chips, cracks or feels loose.
  • Get regular dental exams and cleanings to allow early detection of any issues.

With proper home care and regular dental visits, porcelain restorations can last for many years before replacement is needed. Be attentive to your porcelain dental work and consult your dentist if you notice any problems.

The future of porcelain teeth

Advancements in dental ceramics are expanding the possibilities of porcelain teeth:

  • Stronger materials – Zirconia and lithium disilicate porcelains have made bridgework more achievable.
  • Better esthetics – Newer translucent zirconia provides improved esthetics compared to traditional zirconia.
  • CAD/CAM technology – Digital impression taking and manufacturing streamlines the fabrication process.
  • 3D printing – Porcelain restorations can potentially be 3D printed, further simplifying and customizing production.

While porcelain has always been valued for its strength and beauty, modern innovations are reducing limitations and expanding suitable applications. However, technical skill and care from dental professionals remain essential to ensure optimal outcomes. The future is bright for increasingly advanced and versatile porcelain teeth.


Porcelain is a versatile material for dental restorations but has some limitations. While ideal for anterior crowns and veneers, all-porcelain bridges should be restricted to 1-2 units and back tooth crowns may be better suited to metal. Permanent whitening is not possible and porcelain can chip or fracture under high forces. Proper case selection and excellent oral care are key to success. With continuing innovations in materials and technology, porcelain teeth are likely to become an even more highly valued treatment option. However, they remain a prosthetic option that requires skillful handling by dental professionals to maximize functional and esthetic success.