We all know that ‘Diamonds are a girls best friend’ – well maybe that’s changing. Cubic Zirconia has long been known as the ‘cheap diamond’ in recent years – in fact – only the experts have been able to tell it apart from the real article.
Whilst women (and some men) on the high street have noticed its presence in jewellers, enabling them to purchase a 3 carat fake, the engineering world has been coming up with better and more profitable uses for this material – from car parts to knife blades. Take for example Kyocera knives which have revolutionised food preparation. Imagine – a knife that actually doesn’t require sharpening! For over 25 years the compound has been used in the medical and space industry, two of the most technically demanding environments there are.
What is Cubic Zirconia?
Cubic zirconia is the most popular diamond stimulant and is a man-made crystalline zirconium dioxide with the chemical formula ZrO2. This dioxide is manufactured from Zirconium.
The metallic element, Zirconium has an atomic number of 40 and the symbol Zr. It is highly reactive and does not occur naturally in its pure form, it is usually isolated from the mineral zircon. Zircon is crystalline zirconium silicate (ZrSiO4) and is found across the globe, Australia, Russia, The USA to name a few locations.
Zirconium is a metal that is silver in appearance, both malleable and ductile and exceeedingly corrosion-resistant.
Recently Zirconium has found a place within the dental market.
Zirconia in the Dental World
Zirconium oxide is white and crystalline and is used in enamels and glazes. Sometimes called “white steel” it can be used for metal substructures under bridges and crowns. It is packed into blocks and discs which are milled in a dental laboratory and then sintered in a 1500 degree oven which renders it virtually unbreakable. The blocks are formed by the application of pressure and stabilised plus additives to enhance translucency and bonding.
Laboratory tests have shown that zirconia crowns and bridges are twice as strong as the porcelain fused to metal restorations which they are to replace. It also has the huge advantage over other metal alloys that it is biocompatible. The material does not cause an immunological response, and it is non-toxic. This material is used for many medical applications for example, its’ use in artificial hip joints.
Zirconia restorations have many advantages over traditional metal restorations. Quite clearly they are stronger and so have a longer lifespan. Aesthetically they mimic natural teeth better being transluscent. For these two reasons alone they are the restoration of choice amongst cosmetic dentists. Due to their biocompatibility they are ideal for the gingival oral interface.
So Zirconia is the one to be looking out for at the moment, and will make every girl smile – literally!