Zirconia Dental Implants
The FDA approved the use of zirconia in 2011 and it has been used longer in Europe offering people an alternative to titanium dental implants. Zirconia has proven to be an excellent biocompatible material and provide the stability that dental implants are known to offer.
What Are Zirconia Implants?
Dental implants are used to replace missing teeth and were exclusively made from titanium since the 1960s. With decades of success and proven results in both medicine and dentistry, titanium dental implants are considered to be one of the most successful medical devices in all of medicine. The long term success rates of these implants are between 94%-97%.
Since 1987, zirconia has been used as an alternative to titanium and is gaining popularity in biomimetic and holistic dentistry as people are looking to move away from adding metals to their bodies. The research and improvements in the material are fueling its growing popularity.
What Are Zirconia Implants Made of?
Zirconia dental implants are a non-metal alternative to titanium. It is white in color and a ceramic based material that may contain some metal components. Zirconia is short for zirconium dioxide and is made from zirconium and oxygen. While zirconium is considered a transitional metal, zirconium dioxide is not considered a metal due to its molecular structure.
Pros of Zirconia Dental Implants
When you are looking to replace your missing tooth with a non-metal dental implant, zirconia is your only option. For people who are sensitive to metals or have allergies to metals, the zirconia offers an inert substitution for titanium implants. Due to its white color, zirconia implants may have a more natural look and give you the aesthetically pleasing look you were trying to achieve. Titanium can leave dark circles near the top of the gum and along the gum line, depending on the implant placement.
Zirconia implants were originally available only in a single piece implant. Now, they are available in two-piece implants allowing the entire implant to be customized for your mouth. The nature of zirconia as a material retains less plaque and calculus as compared to titanium allowing for healthier gums, especially if a single piece implant is used.
Zirconia is considered to be the superior ceramic due to its good flexural strength and fracture toughness. For all of these reasons, zirconia is a very attractive material to use in implant dentistry. The studies and research so far indicate that zirconia performs as well as titanium in ossoeintegration with the jawbone.
Cons of Zirconia Dental Implants
As zirconia ages, the material starts to show low-temperature degradation giving you the biggest drawback to using zirconia for your dental implant. There have not been enough studies to show the long-term success of zirconia implants and to demonstrate if the material degrades, loses strength, loses density, and fails to be as tough as it was when it was first implanted. Of the failures that have been noted, the most common problem arises when the aseptic loosens in the two-piece dental implants. Without the proven track record, dentists may stay away from two-piece implants and stay with since piece implants. Without the option of two-piece implants, the single piece implants offer limited abutment angulation options. If the dentist does not have the ability to place the single piece implant at the correct angle, the implant may not be able to function properly. Single piece implants require more experience and stronger implant skills than two-piece implants.
Because the material is still so new in its use in both the US and Europe, there are limited clinical studies on the long-term success of zirconia implants. Titanium implants have been used and studied for decades allowing for consistent sources of data. The reliable data for titanium has offered clear ideas of how long it lasts. The most reliable data for zirconia implants offers insight into the first two to three years. Of the small number of longer-term studies, it is shown that zirconia implants have equal survival rates to titanium implants. One of the areas where titanium implants show complications is the use of frequent excessive use of dental cement leaving the patient with an inflammatory reaction. No cases of inflammation have been reported on zirconia implants.
At this point, zirconia has shown that it is as biocompatible as titanium but there may be a lack of research on this. Anyone considering zirconia implants should keep in mind the limited long-term data on this material.
Zirconia Dental Implants Vs. Titanium Implants
With people avoiding certain materials and mindfully choosing what comes in contact with their bodies, the impact of what we put in our bodies and its effect on our overall health is increasingly more important in our decision making. When talking to the dental about the options for materials in your dental implants, both choices are minimally reactive and the least toxic possible. Comparing the two options leave you with different strengths, clinical success records, established manufacturers, and design choices. Instead of looking to a titanium alloy for your dental implant, you can choose zirconia implants depending on your specific case. The answer to the question of which material is better is not a simple answer; instead, the answer is “It depends.” The best way to make the decision is to review the advantages and disadvantages of each material.
If you are one of the rare people with a titanium allergy or a sensitivity to one of the metals used in the alloy, a non-metal zirconia implant is a more comfortable option for you. Most titanium alloy implants are 89-99% titanium, so there is a small opportunity for your body to reject the implant based on the material alone. In addition to titanium, the alloys tend to include Iron, Manganese, Chromium, Tin, Vanadium, Molybdenum, Zirconium, Niobium, Zinc, Tungsten, and Nickel.
If you have concerns about galvanic or battery effects from your titanium implant, zirconia is a poor electrical and thermal conductor.
Are Zirconia Dental Implants Safe?
Based on the details of this article, zirconia is a wonderful alternative to titanium, but it is not a perfect solution for everyone who needs a dental implant. Currently, the research shows how safe and strong zirconia is and it is a valid alternative to titanium.