Evaluating ceramic crown margins with digital radiography

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Statement of problem.

Radiographs aid in clinically determining crown fit, specifically interproximal margins where tactile and visual methods may be limited. However, investigations of the utility of digital radiographs as a tool for evaluating the marginal openings of ceramic crowns are lacking.


The purpose of this in vitro study was to assess whether marginal adaptation for ceramic crowns and for metal–ceramic crowns with a metal collar can be identified with digital radiographs.

Material and methods.

One lithium disilicate crown, 1 fluorapatite crown, and 1 metal–ceramic crown were fabricated for a maxillary premolar. The crowns were attached to a custom-designed device that allowed the marginal discrepancy to be changed. A total of 10 increments were measured starting at 0 to 20 μm and increasing every 20 μm to a maximum opening of 180 to 200 μm. At each increment, 2 radiographs were made of the crowns, using a digital sensor, 1 perpendicular to and 1 at 80 degrees to the long axis of the tooth. To test whether digital radiographs could be used to accurately identify “acceptable” and “unacceptable” margins, 21 dentists were asked to rate the radiographs as “acceptable” or “unacceptable.” The chi square test was used to analyze differences between the dentists' evaluations and the actual marginal opening (α=.05). For the purposes of this study, a marginal discrepancy greater than 80 μm was considered “unacceptable.”


Of all marginal discrepancies exceeding 80 μm, 78.6% of the metal–ceramic crown radiographs were incorrectly scored as “acceptable” (P<.001). These radiographs were identified as false positives. Lithium disilicate (66.1%) and fluorapatite (45.8%) crowns were more likely to be incorrectly evaluated as “unacceptable” (P<.001) and identified as false negatives.


Using digital radiographs to evaluate marginal adaptation without clinical examination is not by itself an accurate method of evaluating the marginal fit of complete coverage crowns. The marginal fit of the tested metal–ceramic crowns tended to be evaluated incorrectly as acceptable. The marginal fit of the tested ceramic crowns tended to be evaluated incorrectly as unacceptable.

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