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Creramics and porcelain fused to metal ( pfm )

11.1 introduction

The word ceramic is derived from the greek word

keramos which literally means burnt stuff but which has
come to mean more spesifikally a material produced by
burning or firing. The first ceramics fabricated by man were
earthenware post used for domestic purposes. This material is
opaque, relatively weak and porous and would be unsuit able
for dental applications. It consisted mainly of kaolin. The
blending of this with other minerals such as silica and feldspar
produced the translucencyand extra strength required for
dental restorations. Material containing these additional
important ingredients was given the name porcelain.

Fused porcelain has long been used in the contruction of

worjs of art. It can be produced in almost every shade or tint
and its translucency imparts a depth of colour unobtainable by
other materials. Although the technique for porcelain fusing is
exacting it car be initially moulded by hand as a paste and
alterations can by made at various stages of the work. It is not
surprising, therefore, that dentistry has turned to porcelain for
the production of artificial teeth, crowns, bridges and veneers.

Altought the favourrable aesthetic properties and

excellent biokompability of porcelain has never been in doubt,
its use somewhat restricted by the relatively brittle nature of
the material and the large shrinkage which occurs during
processing. Some recent developments offer a potential for
overcoming these problems.

11.2 composition of traditional dental porcelain

The composition of the various types of porcelain are

summarized in table 11.1. it can be seen that there are
considerable differences in composition between the dental
porcelains and decorative porcelain. Indeed, the dental
porcelain contain little or no clay and, possible, would be more
aptly described as dental glasses.

Kaolin is a hydrated aluminosilicate, AlO.2SiO.2HO. the set

decorative porcelain is essentially a mixture of this with silica,
bound together by a flux or binder such as feldspar which is a
mixture of potassium and sadium aluminosilicates,
KO.AlO.6SiO and NaO.AlO.6SiO. feldspar is the lowest
fusing component and it is this which melts and flows during
firing, uniting the other components in a solid mass. The fusion
temperature of feldspar may be further reduced by adding to it
other low-fusing fluxes such as borax.

Of the two types of dental porcelain, the highfusing materials

fuse in the range 1300-1400C whilst the low fusing materials
fuse in the range 850-1100C. latter materials are by far the
more commonly used products.
The precise formulations of dental porcelain vary among
the variable products from the proportions given in table 11.1 ;
however the general trend towards the use of less kaolin ( clay
) with an increase in the feldspar content in order to improve
translucency suggests that dental porcelains should be more
correctly described as glasses. The large glassiy phases
developed by compositions of low kaolin content require
closely controlled firing times and temperatures in order to
produce an acceptable result.

The powders supplied to the dentist or technician are not

just mixtures of the various ingredients. During manufacture
the constituents are mixed together and then fused to from a
frit. This is brokend up, often by dropping the hot material into
cold water. It is then ground into a fine powder ready for use.

In the fusion process which takes place during

manufacture the flux reacts with the outer layers of the grains
of silica, kaolin or glass and partly combines them together.
When the technician fuses the porcelain powder, during the
production of a crown for example, he simply remelts the
fluxes without causing any significant increase in reaction
between the flux and the other components.

Porcelain powders are sometimes pigmented in order

that natural tooth shades can be matched. The pigments used
are normally metal oxides which are stable at the fusion
Some feldspathic porcelains are supplied as opalescent
porcelains. Opalescence is a light scattering effect achieved by
the addition of very small amounts of metallic oxides having a
higher refractive index and a particle size near to that of the
wavelengthof light. Since natural teeth can display some
opalescent cethe availability of opalescent porcelains adds
further to the ability to match natural tooth appearance in
every way.

The use of uranium compounds in dental porcelains to

simulate tooth fluorescence is now considered inadvisable.it is
not only unnecessary but can give an unnatural appearance
under ultraviolet light and, in addition, may create a potential
health hazard.

A low-fusing, transparent glass may be used as a glaze

over the completed body of the porcelain restorasion. The
glaze gives the crown an impervious, smooth surface and
imparts greater translucency.

A smooth surface can be obtained without using a glaze.

By careful control of the furnace temperature, the surface of
the normal porcelain will flow and glaze with only a slight
rounding of the contours of the restoration.unfortunately,any
overheating will cause gross distortions of the shape.

The porcelain powders are mixed with water to produce a

plastic mass of material which can be moulded and carved
before firing. To improve the working properties a binder such
as sugar or starch is added to some powders.

11.3 compation and firing

The aqueous plastic mass of porcelain particles is compacted as

much as possible onto a palatinum foil matrix. This reduces the
size of the spaces between the particles and thus reduces firing
shirinkage. Powders consisting of a mixture of particle sizes
compact more easily than those with particles of one size only.

The moulded crown may be lightly vibrated, thus helping to

settle the powder particles and bring excess water to the
surface, where it is blotted by an absorbent cloth.
Alternatively, the powder may be patted with a spatula to
achieve the same effect.

A well-compated crown not only reduces firing shrinkage but

also slows a regular contraction over its entire surface,thus
maintaining the original form on a slightly reduced scale.

Following compaction, the next stage involves porcelain

firing. A porcelain furnace consists, essentially, of an
electrically heated muffle with a pyrometer which indicates the
temperature in that part of the muffle where the porcelain is
placed. Most modern porcelain furnaces allow firing under
vacuum. This has the effect of reducing the porosity within the
finished material from around 4.6% to about 0.5%.
If the freshly compacted, wet structure is placed directly into a
hot furnace it will evolve steam rapidly and crumble or even
explode. The normal procedure, therefore, is to dry the wet
structure in a warm atmosphere before placing into the hot

At the elevated temperatures of the furnace, the starch or

sugar binder ignites and the surface of the structure blackens.
The door of the furnace is left slightly ajar during this stage to
allow the products of combustion to escape. The furnace door
is then closed and firing is completed. Shrinkage takes place as
the fluxes bind the particles together causing a uniform inward
contraction of the whole mass. Further additions of fresh
material may be made at this stage before glazing.whenever
porcelain work is heated or cooled the process must be carried
out slowly. Porcelain is a poor conductor of heat and is brittle.
Rapid cooling would result in cracking and loss of strength.

The accuracy of fit is maintained by building up the porcelain

on a platinum foil which has been closely adapted to the die.
The firing shrinkage which occurs does not therefore cause a
great discrepancy in the accuracy of fit, since the shrinkage
occurs inwards towards the platinum foil and the foil itself is
not affected by firing. Before cementation, the platinum foil is
removed from the inner surface of a crown to create about
25m of space for cementation.
The porcelain surface is generally glazed as mentioned in
section 11.2. this has the dual effect of improving appearance
and removing surface imperfections, particularly porosities,
which may adversely affect mechanical properties. The use of
porcelain for constructing inlays is a most exacting technique
because, in this case, firing shrinkage has a direct effect on the
fit of the inlay. For this reason the porcelain inlay was a very
rare restoration. This situation has changed with the
developmental of castable ceramics, shrink-free materials, the
more widespread availability of refractory materials on which
porcelain restorations can be manufactured, and CAD-CAM

11.4 properties of porcelain

Aesthetically, porcelain in an almost perfect material for the

replacement of missing tooth substance. It is available in a
range of shades and at various levels of translucency such that
a most life-like appearance can be achieved. The inner layer of
the porcelain crown, for example, is normally constructed from
a fairly opaque core material. This is overlaid with a more
translucent dentine material whit a final coating of
translucent enamel porcelain forming the outermost layer.

Porcelain is a very rigid, hard and brittle material whose

strength is reduced by the presence of surface irregularities or
internal voids and porosities. Finegrained powders give more
uniform surfaces than coarser, and firing at reduced pressures
can reduce porosity. The formation of superficial cracks due to
thermal stresses are best avoided by slow cooling from the
firing temperature. Fracture can be initiated from small surface
scratches caused by grinding and these should be eliminated by
smoothing or by further fusing. Cracks in porcelain crowns
invariable emanate from the inner, unglazed fitting surface
and propagate outwards towards the exposed surface material
as illustrated in fig. 11.1. the brittleness of dental ceramics is
compounded by their tendency to undergo static fatigue. This
is a time-dependent decrease in strength, even in the absence
of any applied load. The process is thought to occur through
alkaline hydrolysis of si-O groups within the porcelain
structure. Alkalinity within the material results from a
solubilization of NaO and KO which forms part of the
feldspathic component of porcelain. The weakening is further
accelerated by dynamic mechanical loading and the whole
process has been likened to stress corrosion cracking which can
occur with metals and alloys. Attempst overcome some of
these problem involved reducing the proportions of NaO and
KO within the materials.

Tooth preparation for all porcelain crowns needs to be

designed to reduce the possibility of producing areas of high
stress within the finished restoration. All internal line angles
should be rounded and care is required to ensure that there
are no areas of sudden change in thickness of porcelain. The
gingival finishing margin should be a smooth shoulder ( i.e.
without steps ) and the finishing angle should be 90 to the
root surface.

As we have said earlier, fracture in ceramic materials occurs

though crack initiation and propagation from surface flaws. In
order for cracks to grow the material be place under tension.
Hence, one method of strengthening ceramics is to generate
compressive stresses in these regions. This can be achieved by
one of two mechanisms. First, ion strengthening can be used.
This involves soaking the fired material in a molten salt in order
to allow ion axchange at the surface. If sodium ions are
partially replace by potassium ions, the latter occupy a greater
volume and effectively create compressive stresses in the
surface layer of the material. Such procedures can be carried
out in a dental laboratory using an ion-exchange paste which is
painted onto the surface. The ion exchange procedure is
achieved by placing the treated ceramic material in a dental
laboratory oven in order to create the conditions under which
diffusion can occur.

A second method for strengthening involves putting the outer

layer into compression through thermal strengthening. During
firing the outer layer solidifies first as it cools more rapidly. The
poor thermal conductivity of the material dictates that the
inner part of the material remains liquid for longer. When the
inner material finally solidifies it shrinks and sets up a
compressive stress in the outer layer. This method of
strengthening can occur during the initial firing of the ceramic
or during the initial firing of the ceramic or during subsequent
heat tempering.

The relatively poor mechanical properties of porcelain can be

improved using alumina, or metal supporting structures. The se
are discussed in the next sections.

The hardness of porcelain ( table 2.2 ) contributes to its ability

to resist forces of abrasion but may give rise to some concern
over the potential for porcelain restorations to abrade the
opposing teeth. It has been shown, however, that the wear of
enamel by ceramic restorations cannot easily be predicted by
the hardness of the ceramic. Some extremely hard ceramic
seem to produce lower enamel wear compared with softer
materials. The shape of crystalline inclusion within the ceramic
appears to be an important factor in determining the abrasive
potential of a ceramic material. The appearance of ceramic
restorations depends in part on the surface gloss which can be
produced using a glaze or by polishing. The hardness of
porcelain dictates that polishing using abrasives should be
difficult. However, different porcelains respond differently to
abrasive polishing. Carefully controlled polishing with a fine
abrasive such as pumice can give a satisfactory surface with
some materials. From a clinical standpoint a polished porcelain
surface will accumulate more plaque that a glazed surface.
Hance porcelain at crown margins should be glazed whenever

Porcelain has excellent thermal properties and is a particularly

good thermal insulator. This fact is of importance when gross
amounts of enamel and dentine are to be replaced and the
residual layer of dentine may be of minimal thickness.

Correctly formulated porcelain is very resistant to chemical

attack, being unaffected by the wide variations of pH which
may be encountered in the mouth.

11.5 alumina inserts and aluminous porcelain

The major disadvantage of porcelain is brittleness and this is

the factor which most limits its use. Several methods are
available which are aimed at preventing the formation or
propagation of cracks on the inner surface of porcelain

One approach is to use a core of pure alumina on which the

porcelain crown is constructed. Alumina is a very hard, opaque
material which is less susceptible to crack propagation than
porcelain. Another approach to strengthening involves the use
of pure alumina inserts. These may be in the form of small
sheets of alumina which are generally placed palatally in a
crown in order to strengthen without impairing the
Powder alumina may be added to porcelain in order to achieve
a significant strengthening. The mechanism of strengthening is
that the alumina particles act as crack stoppers preventing
the propagation of a crack throughout the body of the
porcelain ( fig. 11.2a ).this improvement of properties is
achieved not only as a result of the good mechanical properties
of alumina but also due to the compatibility of alumina with
porcelain. The two materials have closely matching values of
coefficient of thermal expansion and modulus of elasticity. This
ensures that the interface region between the alumina
particles and the porcelain is virtually stressfree and not likely
to encourage crack propagation around the alumina particles.
Attempts to improve the proportions of porcelain with
materials which are not compatible have been unsuccessful
since the cracks propagate.