What is the Difference Between Zirconia and Porcelain

The main difference between zirconia and porcelain is that zirconia has a high mechanical strength and is less translucent when compared to porcelain.

Zirconia and porcelain are both ceramic materials commonly used in dentistry. Zirconia is a ceramic material primarily composed of zirconium dioxide, whereas porcelain is a ceramic material made from a mixture of clay and other materials, such as feldspar and kaolin.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Zirconia
      – Definition, Features, Applications
2. What is Porcelain
      – Definition, Features, Applications
3. Similarities Between Zirconia and Porcelain
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Zirconia and Porcelain
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Zirconia and Porcelain
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Porcelain, Zirconia

Difference Between Zirconia and Porcelain - Comparison Summary

What is Zirconia

Zirconia is a compound composed of zirconium and oxygen atoms. Its chemical formula is ZrO2. The crystal structure of zirconia is cubic at high temperatures but undergoes a phase transformation at lower temperatures, becoming tetragonal or monoclinic. This phase transformation can be controlled by stabilizing agents, such as yttrium oxide or other rare-earth oxides, resulting in different types of zirconia materials, each with unique properties. Commonly used zirconia materials include yttria-stabilized zirconia, partially stabilized zirconia, and fully stabilized zirconia. Zirconia is characterized by high hardness, high flexural strength, high fracture toughness, and low thermal conductivity.

Zirconia has revolutionized modern dentistry with its exceptional properties, finding versatile applications such as dental crowns and bridges. These restorations benefit from zirconia’s biocompatibility, strength, and lifelike appearance. Additionally, zirconia dental implants have gained popularity for their biocompatibility and durability, providing an alternative to traditional titanium implants. Zirconia veneers also enhance the aesthetics of teeth while delivering strength and a natural look, making them a valuable tool in cosmetic dentistry.

Zirconia vs Porcelain

Zirconia’s exceptional mechanical properties and resistance to high temperatures have expanded its role beyond dentistry, finding invaluable application in engineering. Zirconia-based ceramic cutting tools are vital in machining for their high wear resistance and thermal stability, notably in industries like aerospace and automotive. Zirconia ball bearings are prized for low friction and corrosion resistance, serving in high-precision machinery. Its ability to withstand high temperatures has made zirconia integral in gas turbine engines and used in components such as combustion liners and insulators. Additionally, it plays a key role in sealing applications requiring both high wear resistance and low friction, as well as in supporting catalysts in chemical processes due to its high surface area and temperature stability. Zirconia’s versatile attributes contribute significantly to the advancement of engineering across various sectors.

What  is Porcelain

Porcelain, often known as “white gold,” is a special type of ceramic material admired for its beauty, strength, and translucent quality. It has a long history dating back to ancient China, specifically during the Tang Dynasty. Porcelain is made from fine-grained clay, mainly kaolin, mixed with other materials like feldspar and quartz. After firing in a kiln at high temperatures, it becomes very dense and smooth, making it lovely and tough.

Compare Zirconia and Porcelain

What makes porcelain unique is its smooth, glass-like finish and the way it can let light through, which gives it a delicate, almost magical appearance. Porcelain has been valued for centuries for its practical uses and its aesthetic appeal. It’s often used to make fine, hand-painted figurines, detailed vases, and elegant dinnerware. In dining and tea ceremonies, the famous “China” is often made from porcelain, adding to the experience.

Today, porcelain is used in various ways, from high-tech applications like electrical insulators to making dental crowns due to its excellent insulation and safety properties. Artists and designers continue to find new ways to use porcelain for modern artistic creations.

Similarities Between Zirconia and Porcelain

  • Zirconia and porcelain are both known for their hardness and resistance to abrasion.
  • Both zirconia and porcelain are ceramics, which means they are primarily composed of inorganic, non-metallic materials.
  • While they are hard, both materials can be brittle, meaning they are prone to fracturing or chipping under certain conditions of stress.

Difference Between Zirconia and Porcelain


Zirconia is a ceramic material derived from zirconium dioxide, while porcelain is a type of ceramic material made from a mixture of various materials, including kaolin, feldspar, and quartz.


Furthermore, zirconia is known for its high mechanical strength. It is extremely durable and can withstand significant biting forces. Porcelain is generally more fragile and prone to chipping or breaking when compared to zirconia.


Zirconia is less translucent compared to porcelain. Porcelain is more translucent, and it can closely mimic the appearance of natural teeth.

Dental Applications

Zirconia is frequently used for posterior (back) dental restorations where strength and durability are of primary importance, while porcelain is commonly used for veneers, crowns, and other dental restorations, particularly in the aesthetic zone (front teeth) where a natural appearance is essential.

FAQ: Zirconia and Porcelain

What is cheaper out of zirconia and porcelain?

Porcelain is more cost-effective than zirconia.

Which is better: zirconia or porcelain?

Dentists often prefer zirconia due to its superior strength and durability, making it suitable for various dental applications, especially for posterior teeth where greater strength is needed.

Do zirconia crowns last longer than porcelain crowns?

Yes, zirconia crowns generally last longer than porcelain crowns due to their superior strength and durability.


Zirconia is a ceramic material primarily composed of zirconium dioxide, whereas porcelain is a ceramic material made from a mixture of clay and other materials, such as feldspar and kaolin. The main difference between zirconia and porcelain is that zirconia has a high mechanical strength and is less translucent when compared to porcelain.


1. “Zirconia.” Zircon Association.org
2. “Porcelain.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Metallfreie Brücke Zirkoniumdioxid 2012 PD 3” By Bin im Garten – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Bridge from dental porcelain” By The original uploader was Wagonerj at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.Wikipedia to Commons by Sevela.p using CommonsHelper. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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