Traditionally, dental implants are made from metal, to be more precise a titanium alloy which is highly biocompatible with the body. The material is ideal, because once the dental implant is inserted into the jawbone, then it usually integrates and bonds with the bone exceptionally well.
Once integrated, the titanium alloy dental implant is ready to support a new implant crown, bridge or denture. It’s a system that has been used now for decades and which is highly reliable, but over the past few years, there has been increasing concern about the effects of having any sort of metal in the body. Some people don’t want to have anything metal inside them, while others may have metal allergies or sensitivities which make the use of titanium dental implants less desirable. Where this is the case, ceramic dental implants could be a possible solution as they are metal-free.
Ceramic dental implants will appeal to anybody searching for a more holistic approach to dentistry because it is a material that more easily mimics nature, a quality known as being biomimetic.
What Are Ceramic Dental Implants?
All-ceramic dental implants are white, or tooth-colored and are made from a material called zirconia. Interestingly, zirconia is what’s called a transitional metal and zirconia implants are made from a type of zirconium oxide. It’s the addition of oxide that changes the composition of the material, as well as its structure and its name.
Even though metal or titanium dental implants are excellent, the white color of zirconia dental implants make them incredibly appealing, and especially for aesthetics. Most are fabricated in a single unit, consisting of the implant post and the implant abutment, which is the part that protrudes above the gum.
Titanium dental implants are traditionally formed in two separate parts consisting of the implant post and the implant abutment. However, newer forms of ceramic implants are now available, and which do come in two parts.
A More Aesthetic Option
In addition to concerns about metal in the body, one of the main reasons for choosing a ceramic dental implant is because of aesthetics. Although for most people the gray color of the dental implant post is hidden, in some it may become visible just around the gum line, and especially where the gum tissue is naturally thinner, which can be the case for certain people.
With a ceramic implant, there is no possibility of any metal color shining through, and it can be a very good choice for areas of the mouth where aesthetics is particularly important, for example, when restoring front teeth.
Are There Any Risks or Downsides in Choosing Zirconia Implants?
The success rate of zirconia implants is high, but one concern is the possibility of fractures or microcracks, especially if the implant needs to be adjusted. Ultimately, these microcracks could cause a fracture in the zirconia implant or the zirconia crown. The possibility of microcracks is significantly reduced with proper implant planning.
An implant dentist who is using computer-guided surgery to plan and place dental implants will be far less likely to carry out any modifications to the overall shape or size of the dental implant. Additionally, proper placement and planning ensure that any stresses placed on the dental implant are correctly distributed, which helps to reduce the risk of implant failure.
Are There Times When Titanium Implants Are Better?
The idea of having a metal-free restoration will be appealing to many people, and especially because it could offer a more aesthetic outcome. However, titanium dental implants can still sometimes be a preferable choice, and especially for more complex restorations such as restoring a complete arch of teeth.
Dental implants are an excellent way to restore complete arches, either replacing teeth with a full arch bridge that will restore 10 to 12 teeth or by securing an implant-supported denture. It’s a sophisticated treatment that takes enormous skill and planning on the part of the implant dentist.
The position of every single dental implant must be carefully assessed to make sure it is securely located in the jawbone while avoiding essential structures. Your implant dentist will also consider how your teeth will look when fully restored. For example, if a dental implant is wrongly placed or incorrectly angled, then it will make it very difficult to properly restore with a crown or bridge that looks natural and which functions just like real teeth.
How to Choose
Ceramic dental implants can be an excellent choice if you do have metal sensitivities and have previously thought that dental implants are not for you. However, if you are considering dental implants and have severe metal allergies, then it could be worth being properly tested with what’s called a MELISA test, and which can determine your sensitivities to specific metals.
Ceramic implants are also very appealing for anyone looking for a metal-free solution to replace missing teeth, but generally, it’s worth being guided by your dental implant dentist, even if you have your heart set on ceramic implants.
Titanium and zirconia are both highly biocompatible which is why these materials are used for dental implants. Often, it’s entirely feasible to create natural and aesthetically pleasing dental implant teeth without using zirconia implants.
Titanium alloy implants have been used for decades and are heavily researched and tested by the major implant companies that manufacture the most well-known brands. Although zirconia implants have been available for quite some time, long-term studies are less readily available because they just haven’t been used as long.
After assessing your mouth and talking with you, your dental implant dentist can discuss the most suitable solutions for your tooth loss. They should explain each solution in detail, so you know exactly why they feel this option will offer the best results.
Make sure you understand the treatment being offered to you and always ask if something doesn’t make sense. An excellent dental implant dentist will never mind going over the details with you once more. Ultimately, they want to provide you with the best and most long-lasting treatment that will give you a beautiful yet functional smile.