Zirconia Dental Implants

Patients today have a number of options available when they need to replace missing teeth! One of the best ways to replace missing teeth is with dental implants. Implants have the added benefit of supporting bone health whereas others can promote the degradation of jaw bone. Implants are typically made of titanium but zirconia implants have been used for decades in Europe, only recently having received FDA approval in the United States in 2011.

Titanium has been the most commonly used material for dental implants since about the 1960s and has a proven success rate of about 95% to 97%. Patients who suffer from metal allergies may not be able to have titanium implants even though they are incredibly biocompatible, which simply means that they have the ability to act naturally within our body. Fortunately, zirconia has a comparable biocompatibility with that of titanium and may be appropriate for patients with metal allergies. The long-term success of zirconia implants has not been adequately studied because it is still new to the dental scene.

Another great benefit of using dental implants to replace teeth is the fact that they are able to support not only one tooth but multiple teeth, including a full set of dentures on one or both arches! Dental implants basically act as an artificial tooth root and are an incredibly stable and natural looking restoration.

Benefits of Zirconia Dental Implants

Zirconia is a white, ceramic crystalline material that is derived from zirconium which is a metal in the titanium family but is still safe for patients with metal allergies. Dentists who practice holistic dentistry are more likely to use zirconia implants on their patients since the biocompatibility of zirconia is an excellent option for patients who prefer metal-free dentistry. Osseointegration is the bond formed between the jaw bone and the implant and zirconia has shown to display great osseointegration properties comparable to that of titanium implants, allowing them to fully fuse with the jaw bone just as well.

Zirconia is easily color matched to the patient's natural tooth structure and is less likely to retain plaque and calculus buildup than titanium implants, making it a better choice for gum health. Along with their proven health benefits, dental implants in general are more aesthetically pleasing than other tooth replacement restorations, zirconia in particular maintaining a more natural look for a longer period of time than titanium implants.

As we age, gum tissue can begin to recede from tooth structure and implant parts may begin to show at the gum line. Titanium implants are silver and when they peek through the gum tissue, it can cause an unnatural looking appearance. Zirconia implants are completely tooth colored so even if gum recession occurs, the aesthetics remain. While the implant crown is always color matched to the rest of the patient's teeth, zirconia implants come in two pieces, both of which are color matched, and allow for a customized implant and abutment as well as implant crown, providing a more individualized result.

Low- temperature degradation is really the only downfall of zirconia implants. This degradation can result in damage to the mechanical properties of the implant, leading to a reduction in strength, durability, and density of the material. Unfortunately, because zirconia is still so new in the dental field, there are not many clinical studies available to show the long-term success of zirconia dental implants.

Advantages of Zirconia Dental Implants

Since zirconia implants are completely tooth colored, there is no risk of metal showing at the gum line due to gum recession overtime. Titanium implants run a risk of a gray appearance and tissue discoloration at the implant site as the patient ages.

Zirconia has proven to have biocompatibility properties equalling that of titanium plus an added bonus of resisting corrosion. The surface of a zirconia implant is able to resist plaque accumulation, which helps prevent peri-implantitis and periodontal disease, both of which can ultimately lead to implant failure.

Use in Holistic Dentistry
Patients who prefer metal-free dental restorations or have a metal allergy have a great alternative with zirconia restorations and zirconia implants. Even though titanium allergies are rare, those with metal allergies may have difficulty with some dental restorations that contain metal properties. Even though zirconia is derived from a component in the metal family, it is not a pure metal, which is what causes titanium implants to cause trouble for some patients.

Disadvantages of Zirconia Dental Implants

Even though zirconia is incredibly strong, it is also more brittle than titanium which means that it is more susceptible to fracture when forces are applied that can cause the implant to flex or bend. Because it has a lower fracture strength and a lower flexural strength and is also smaller in diameter than titanium.

Titanium implants have a proven success rate between 95% and 97% and have the studies to show it. Zirconia implants are still considered to be very young in the world of dentistry and do not have the same studies to show long-term success.

Design abilities
Zirconia imposes limits to your dentist’s ability to design and customize your implant. Because zirconia implants are still so new, design improvements have only been made in the past few years. Limitations on design and availability of different zirconia parts can pose a challenge to your dentist as they try to provide you with the best possible custom results. Patients that require extensive restorative treatment, such as a full set of implant-supported dentures, may not be able to opt for zirconia.

Titanium implants have studies supporting its biocompatibility and high success rate because they have been used for so long. Not everyone is comfortable with a new product but zirconia has proven to be a promising alternative for titanium, especially in patients who prefer metal-free dentistry and those who have metal allergies. Zirconia implants are a safe and effective alternative available to patients who need or want more than one option.

If your dentist determines that you are a candidate for dental implants, discuss the options available to you and the advantages and disadvantages of each. It is important to choose a product that will fit your lifestyle and habits to give you a beautiful smile for years to come.

Clean and Maintain Dental Implants

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