Humans have been using porcelain for a very long time. At its heart, porcelain is nothing more than a kind of ceramic, a kind of clay that you bake until all (or nearly all) the water is gone and so you’re left with a smooth, hard stone. Porcelain makes use of a lot of different minerals depending on where it’s made and what it’s used for, but it’s almost always white or close to it thanks to minerals that contain a lot of silicon and aluminum.
But what really separates porcelain from regular ceramics is the fact that porcelain uses clays with such tiny particles that it becomes perfectly smooth and waterproof even without a layer of glaze. That’s what made fine china pots and plates so valuable (since Chinese artisans used porcelain for their expensive exports), and it’s why today we use porcelain for things like bathroom sinks and microwave-safe bowls.
The strength and water resistance of porcelain make it a perfect material for dentistry, too. The fact that it’s harder than natural tooth enamel and has a similar color is another advantage, especially since dentists can mix in a few extra minerals to give porcelain the exact same shade of off-white you find in a natural smile. As a result, dentists use porcelain for everything from artificial veneers to complete replacement crowns.
Porcelain also has a use when it comes to orthodontics and braces. Metal brackets and wires are still the industry standard for braces since they’re the least expensive option, but porcelain brackets combined with off-white wires can be practically invisible thanks to how porcelain can be the same color as the teeth behind them. And while porcelain may crack instead of bend the way metal does, it’s strong enough that the brackets won’t be in danger of cracking unless something will also crack the teeth.
Porcelain goods aren’t as expensive as they were back in the days of the Silk Road and fine china, but it still costs a pretty penny more than other materials like plastic plates, resin veneers, and metal braces. Still, many people find the extra benefits of porcelain to be worth the extra cost, benefits like the fact that it’s a hard, waterproof material that won’t crack even in hot or cold conditions and the fact that it can look just the same as natural tooth enamel. That’s why you should consider porcelain braces for yourself or your child.