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All Zirconia Implants
Conventional Titanium Dental Implants
With dental implants becoming more popular and prevalent, and implant education readily available on the internet, patients can do their own research and hear from friends and family how their implant treatment went. Conventional dental implants are made of titanium. Titanium is the most common material for dental implants because it is very biocompatible. That means that titanium dental implants interact well with the human body when they are surgically placed. Rarely do titanium dental implants cause allergic reactions in patients. The last thing you want, as a patient and as the dentist placing the implant, is to have the implant cause a reaction in the body and not become integrated, or cemented in the bone.
If this is already too confusing, I’ve written a description of dental implants and implant placement surgery in another post if you want to learn more about dental implants HERE.
Dental Implants Made of Zirconia
One area of contention is all-zirconia implants. Dental implants are typically made of titanium alloys, but some dentists place implants made of zirconia. “Why would they do this?” you ask? Zirconia implants are white, while titanium implants are dark gray and look like a traditional metal. Patients might prefer zirconia implants simply due to cosmetics. Dental implants made of zirconia might look better on the outside, but there’s no telling what’s going on under the surface. There can be major problems with zirconia implants that might not make them suitable for implant treatment.
Dental Implant Parts
Typically, the dental implant complex is composed of three parts: the implant body that is surgically placed in the jaw bone, the abutment or connector that is screwed into the implant body, and finally the crown or tooth portion that is cemented on top of the connector platform. The interface between a titanium implant and titanium abutment connector (joined together with a titanium screw) is very strong. In fact, the connection between all titanium parts is stronger than the connection between zirconia and titanium parts because they are two different materials with different characteristics, like how much each one distorts under pressure.
Zirconia Implant Parts
In contrast to traditional titanium implants, zirconia implants are made up of only two pieces; the implant and abutment are a single piece, then the crown (or tooth part) is cemented on top. That system, where the implant and connector are the same part, can lead to big problems for you, the patient, down the road.
Multi-part implant systems with connectors provide safety nets in case of failure. Once an implant becomes cemented to the bone, there is a very low chance that something will happen to it. If something does happen to the implant complex, the weakest part in the system breaks. The outer crown part and the abutment connector piece are the weakest links in the whole implant chain. In the small chance that something breaks, it’s usually going to be either the crown or the connector. Those two pieces are easily re-created and replaced.
What Happens When the Implant Breaks?
When the implant itself, the part that requires surgery to place and is cemented to your jaw bone, breaks, there’s only one thing you can do. You have to surgically remove the implant, wait for the site to heal, and get a new implant (which means another surgery later on).
Zirconia implants break more frequently because the connector and implant are one single piece. When the connector breaks in a zirconia implant, there is no way to replace it individually. The only option is to remove the entire implant.
Since zirconia implants aren’t as reliable as titanium implants, we choose to avoid using them and stick to only placing titanium implants.