Zirconia Dental Implants

Dental implants are one of the best ways for patients to restore one or more missing teeth. Even though there are a number of options available, implants have the added benefit of supporting bone health. A dental implant is a titanium or zirconia post that is surgically placed directly into the jaw bone and can be used to support not only one tooth, but even a full set of dentures on one or both arches! Titanium has been the most commonly used material for dental implants since about the 1960s but recently, zirconia has made its way into the dental field. In Europe, zirconia implants have been used for decades but only recently received FDA approval in the United States in 2011.

Titanium implants have a proven success rate of about 95% to 97% but patients who suffer from metal allergies may not be able to receive a titanium of them. One of the biggest benefits of zirconia implants is their biocompatibility, their ability to act naturally with our body, which is comparable to 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 so new to the dental scene. Dentists who practice holistic dentistry or more apt to use zirconia implants but zirconia is gaining ground in traditional dentistry as well.

Zirconia is a white, ceramic crystalline material that is derived from zirconium, which is a metal in the titanium family but it is still safe and successful for patients with metal allergies. Zirconia is easily color matched to the patient's natural tooth structure.

What are the benefits of zirconia dental implants?

The biocompatibility of zirconia implants is great for patients who prefer metal-free dentistry and could even be the healthier option. Zirconia retains less plaque and calculus buildup than titanium implants, making it better for gum health. Zirconia implants have displayed osseointegration properties comparable to that of titanium implants so they are able to fuse with job bone structure just as well as titanium.

While dental implants in general are the more aesthetically pleasing option in comparison to other replacement restorations, zirconia implants look more natural for a longer period of time than titanium implants. As we age, gum tissue may begin to recede and implant parts may begin to show. 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 the same! 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 and allow for a more individualized result.

As far as studies that show, the only real downfall of zirconia implants is low-temperature degradation. This degradation can result in damage to the mechanical properties of the implant, reducing 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.

What are the advantages of zirconia dental implants?

Aesthetics: Zirconia implants are completely tooth colored so, over time, there is no risk of metal showing through the gum line due to gum recession. Titanium implants run a risk of tissue discoloration or a gray appearance at the implant site as the patient ages.

Biocompatibility: Zirconia has proven to have biocompatibility properties equalling that of titanium with the added advantage 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. When an implant fails, it may need to be replaced if possible.

Holistic Dentistry: Patients who need or prefer metal-free dental restorations have a great alternative in zirconia restorations and zirconia implants. Those with metal allergies may have difficulty with some dental restorations that contain metal properties, though titanium allergies are rare. 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 be problematic for some patients.

What are the disadvantages to zirconia implants?

Durability: Zirconia is incredibly strong but 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, zirconia implants are not as strong and durable as titanium.

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

Design abilities: Zirconia is at a disadvantage to titanium because of the limits zirconia impose on 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 availability and the 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 intensive dental restorative treatment may not have zirconia as an option.

Titanium implants have the supporting studies to show its biocompatibility and high success rate since 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 a choice.

During the consultation with your periodontist or oral surgeon, together we will review all of your options and discuss it vantage of interest vantages of each. For now, where zirconia is concerned, it is important for you to understand your options so make sure you ask any questions that you may have during your consultation.

Permanent Dentures