If you have a missing tooth or multiple teeth, your options are typically a bridge and crown combo, dentures, or implants. If you are leaning towards implants, you have another decision to consider. While traditional implants use a titanium screw, zirconia implants are another option that offers a variety of different benefits. At Soundview Family Dental, we are here to answer all your dental implant questions and help you make the best choice for you.
How zirconia implants came to be?
Titanium implants have dominated the dental world since their inception in the 1970s. For titanium implants, there are three main components. The titanium implant posts, also known as screws, go into the gums and jawbone, designed to fuse with the bone over time. After this takes place, the abutment is attached. The third component is the prosthesis or tooth restoration. This is the portion that the crown, or false tooth, is eventually attached to replace your missing tooth.
While titanium has proven very effective for dental implants, they are not always successful. Titanium implants can increase the risk of bacterial infection, are open to corrosion, and increase bleeding, inflamed, and receding gums. In some cases, people may experience an allergy to metal, making titanium implants impossible. In addition, people with thin gum tissue may see the titanium post show through, causing a grayish appearance to the gums. For many, these complications and concerns left them seeking alternative treatment options, such as dentures or traditional crowns and bridges. However, researchers began looking for implant alternatives, eventually finding zirconia to be a viable option.
What are zirconia implants?
Problems with titanium implants left many searching for alternative treatments. In the early 2000s, research and experimentation began with the use of zirconia implants. Zirconia comes from zirconium, a metal. However, this zirconium undergoes an oxidization process that causes a chemical reaction, creating zirconium dioxide, or zirconia. This changes the metal properties, making it a completely different and metal-free material that is colored to look like a natural tooth, is easier to clean and maintain, is corrosion-free, and reduces the risk of bleeding and sensitive gums.
Researchers also looked for ways to simplify the implant process and parts. Instead of an implant screw and abutment as two parts, they created a combined implant, putting these parts together. While this made the initial implant easier, it did limit the use of these implants.
By 2005, oral surgeons introduced one-piece zirconia implants into Europe, and by 2011, the FDA approved their use in the United States. Not only were these implants metal-free, but they were a one-piece implant solution, with the post and abutment made together. While this limited their use, two-piece implants are now available, giving oral surgeons many more application options.
Zirconia implants offer a wide variety of dental benefits, including superior strength and durability. Many dental surgeons find that this offers maximum contact with the jawbone, allowing them to better fuse with the bone. This creates an implant with added strength. While added strength and durability make this implant a great choice, other important advantages to zirconia implants include:
- 100% metal-free implants – This is extremely important for those with allergies or sensitivities to metal. Implant failure often occurs in those with metal allergies or sensitivities, but this offers a solution.
- Natural-looking implant – Because zirconia implants look like natural teeth, you will not experience the graying around the gumline commonly seen with traditional implants.
- Helps better maintain optimal oral health – Zirconia is less susceptible to plaque buildup and helps reduce the risk of gum inflammation and infection.
Zirconia implants are not for everyone.
While these offer many benefits, they are not the best choice for everyone and have some disadvantages. These disadvantages can include:
- Fewer clinical indications – Titanium implants work for both single tooth replacement and multiple tooth replacement. Unfortunately, zirconia implants are mainly for single tooth replacement.
- Possible fractures – While these provide strength and durability, they are not as strong as titanium. To reduce the risk of fracture, zirconia implants are often wider than titanium implants, requiring more space and possible bone grafting in order to build up bone volume to support the implant.
- One-piece systems create limitations – The original one-piece design of zirconia implants limited their use as this design is less flexible and can create problems during implant placement. The addition of the new two-piece designs works to combat this problem.
- Cost – cost more than titanium implants
- Durability – With good oral hygiene and regular care, titanium implants can last 20 years or more. Unfortunately, because zirconia implants are relatively new, their lifespan is unknown.
Is it safe?
Zirconia implants are a safe and effective alternative to traditional titanium implants, especially for those with metal allergies and sensitivities. If you are considering dental implants, you can reach out to Soundview Family Dental. Dr. Kitts is here to answer all your implant questions, evaluate your individual needs, and advise on which implant option will work best for you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us online today or call the office at (425) 563-6360.