Zirconia Dental Implants

Zirconia Dental Implants

Dental implants have been used for decades to replace missing teeth. When dental implants were first introduced, they were made of titanium, which has proven to be a durable and effective option for many people; titanium implants have long-term success rates of about 95% and have been in use since the early 1960s. However, while titanium is highly biocompatible and non-allergenic, a small percentage of people do demonstrate some hypersensitivity to the material, and there are also increasing numbers of people who don’t want metal implants placed into their bodies simply as a matter of preference. An increasingly popular alternative to titanium dental implants can be found with zirconia dental implants. There are many benefits to zirconia’s use in dental implants, and there are also limitations; to determine whether zirconia dental implants are the best choice for you, it’s helpful to weigh these benefits and limitations.

Zirconia was introduced as an alternative material for dental implants in 1987 and has increased in popularity since then, as more and more people seek holistic dental therapies. Continued clinical research has led to consistent improvements in the technology surrounding zirconia implants, and innovations continue to develop rapidly as more and more zirconia implants are used. Zirconia, which is a ceramic material, is naturally white in color. Though it is usually proposed as a non-metal alternative to titanium, the reality is that zirconia does contain some metal, which is the case for all ceramic materials. The metal in ceramic material, however, is non-reactive due to its oxide structure and is inert and non-reactive in the body.

In addition to its non-reactive nature, zirconia has some other advantages over titanium. Because zirconia is naturally white in color, there is no risk of dark metal showing through the thin tissue of the gums, an issue that can arise with titanium implants. This is particularly preferable when the implants are in the front of the mouth, where the teeth and gums can easily be seen. While pure, medical titanium is very unlikely to cause an allergic reaction, the fact remains that it can happen. Additionally, while most titanium implants are made of pure, medical-grade titanium, some manufacturers include other metals in the titanium implants they make. These metals can include chromium, manganese, niobium, molybdenum, tin, vanadium, zinc, tungsten, and even nickel, and the implant manufacturers may not list these ingredients on their product labeling. Zirconia implants have also been shown to encourage a lower level of plaque accumulation around the implants, which leads to a lower risk of infection and gum disease. Zirconia is also highly non-corrosive and non-reactive, and it has been found to have similar biocompatibility and soft-tissue response characteristics to titanium, fusing successfully with bone tissue during healing and interacting favorably with the natural oral tissues.

Zirconia implants can have some drawbacks, however. Because it has only been used for dental implants for a relatively brief period of time, there is a limit to the number of options for types of dental implants and implant components. This can pose problems when a dental restoration is clinically complicated, which can be the case when multiple teeth are being replaced. Zirconia may not be a practical option for complex dental restorations, such as those that seek to replace all of the teeth, as these treatments require complex planning and rely on a variety of different options for implant components that vary in size, purpose, and angulation. In recent years, more and more design innovations have been developed for zirconia implants, and, thanks to the popularity of zirconia implants, these developments can be expected to continue. There is also little issue with zirconia implant design options when these implants are used to replace single teeth.

Additionally, because zirconia has not been in use for decades like titanium has, there is little evidence of the long-term success of zirconia implants. One drawback of zirconia implants is the possibility of degradation as it ages, which could reduce the strength and density of the material. Because the material is so new, however, there are limited studies examining the long-term success of zirconia implants. The few studies that do exist, however, demonstrate survival rates that are comparable to titanium. While no evidence exists to suggest that there are long-term risks associated with zirconia implants, there is also little evidence to the contrary; there is insufficient evidence on all sides, though existing evidence is promising. Zirconia dental implants were approved by the FDA in 2011, but they were used in Europe for several years before this approval with excellent results. It has been suggested, however, that zirconia is more brittle than titanium and therefore poses a higher risk of fracture under significant force, specifically types of force that cause the material to bend. This is more of an issue with very small zirconia implants, which may be needed in cases where a patient’s bone mass is too thin to support a traditional denture, or in cases where a patient’s teeth are very closely spaced.

If you are interested in dental implants and don’t want to have metal implants placed, either due to allergy or simply because of preference, zirconia is the only option. While they were only offered as one-piece implants when they were introduced into the field, they are now available as two-piece implants, which increases their usefulness and customizability. As more and more patients seek dental restorations, and as dental implants increase in popularity, the options can be expected to increase, making zirconia implants more customizable and therefore more appropriate for a wider variety of uses. Zirconia implants help maintain the health of the gums by reducing the amount of dental plaque and tartar that adheres to the teeth, and they demonstrate a similar affinity to bone tissue as titanium; they also provide aesthetic benefits that cannot be conferred by titanium. If you’re interested in dental implants to replace one or more missing teeth, talk to your dentist or dental surgeon and ask for their recommendation; you may be a good candidate for zirconia implants and the benefits they can provide.