Dental Implant Materials
A Brief History of Dental Implants
Dental implants have revolutionized tooth restoration, but if it weren't for a providential accident, we might never have discovered them. In 1952, a Swedish doctor named Per-Ingvar Brånemark discovered that when he placed titanium in contact with bone, the bone grew alongside the titanium. As time went on, one could not remove the titanium without cutting into the bone around it. This discovery (a process known as osseointegration) later developed into dental implants.
Dental scientists have tested other materials for implants since then. Titanium has worked exceptionally well. Today, over 95% of dental implants use titanium alloys, and they have a success rate of 98% even 10 years after installation, with not a single case of an allergic reaction to the titanium.
However, a small percentage of patients have had allergic reactions to other metals used in titanium implants, prompting a search for a metal-free implant option. Zirconium became another material of choice because of its strength, hardness, and biocompatibility (that is, its ability to osseointegrate with bone).
Zirconia dental implants don't have the dark colors of the metal showing through the gums. The zirconia will not corrode, and it is thermally non-conductive. It also doesn't have currents between dissimilar metals in the mouth.
Titanium Implants vs. Zirconium Implants
Unlike zirconia, titanium has a much longer history of time-tested use. Given their flexible options for surgical placement, titanium implants have several advantages over zirconia.
One-Piece and Two-Piece Systems
Titanium implants are also more versatile than zirconia since we can make them as one-piece or two-piece systems. In a two-piece system, the implant is placed in the jaw bone to replace the tooth root. An abutment or post is attached to the implant, which protrudes through the gums. The crown is placed on top of it.
A two-piece system is more versatile and has a lot more prosthetic options. We can use them to snap overdentures into place (which are removable teeth), and we can also attach permanent teeth to the implants with screws or cement.
We are also able to position the implant off-angle by a small margin and then correct it with a specially-made post. We can modify zirconium implants if they are off-angle, but this isn't the best option compared to what we can do with a separate post.
Time Needed for Osseointegration
Both titanium and zirconium implants will need a period of several months for the osseointegration process to finish. Once the implant has fused with the bone we can place the last pieces of the prosthetic. If one-piece zirconium implants are used, it can complicate the healing process since we can't embed the implant underneath the gum tissue. If the implant is moved or if pressure is placed on it, it can't osseointegrate.
All things considered, both titanium implants and zirconium implants have unique benefits. However, the type of implant used will ultimately depend on the procedure in question and the patient's individual needs. We work with our patients closely to make sure that we both make the right choice.
If you have any other questions or concerns, please give us a call at (971) 317-8414.