As in any field of science, practices are ever evolving. New procedures are developed, tested and put into place. New materials are discovered and proven to be more effective. So it’s not surprising the relatively new field of dental implants has also evolved from early days. Most dentists point to 1952 as the year when implants, as we know them today, were developed by a Swedish doctor. Dr. Branemark found that when titanium was placed into contact with a bone and left undisturbed, the bone grew right against the surface – sturdy and secure.
Initial implants were pure titanium, but dental professionals concluded that material was too soft. They developed an alloy to improve effectiveness. Today, more than 95% of implants are titanium alloys. The success of these implants is over 98%, even after 10 years.
There are folks, however, who worry about sensitivity to metals within their body. To answer this concern, researchers looked to develop a metal free implant. Zirconium – used as zirconium oxide (a white opaque-looking product also used in making crowns and bridges) was found to do the job. (Jewelry lovers may be familiar with zirconium from its popularity in its crystalline form. Cubic Zirconia resembles a flawless diamond.)
So – if you’re a candidate for an implant, you have a choice before you. As your dental professional, I will tell you both materials integrate very effectively with bone. Of course, titanium has been in use for a much longer time. And, titanium implants can be made as a one or two piece system. In a two piece system, the implant replaces the root and is generally is placed at the level of the underlying bone. Attached to this is a post or abutment, which sticks through the gums and is used to support or attach the teeth. Two piece systems are more versatile and offer more options prosthetically. They can be placed slightly off-angle – which may be a necessity due to the volume and location of the bone in the implant site. I also believe titanium implants are the way to go when your underlying bone is less than ideal, or if you frequently clench or grind your teeth.
Zirconium implants (the implant body and the post or abutment) are made as one piece. Though they can be modified, they are not as versatile during the positioning phase. Surgical placement and volume of bone is absolutely critical. However, Zirconia implants do have advantages: there will be no dark color of metal showing through the gums; Zirconia does not corrode as titanium might; it is not thermally non-conductive, and it may be more attractive to those who do not wish to have metal in their bodies.
To summarize, you do have options to consider. We will discuss them at length and provide the information you’ll need to make your decision. My staff and I can answer any questions or concerns you may have. As always, we are here to help.