Zirconia dental implants are a groundbreaking addition to the dental industry. Crafted from zirconia, a modern, hypoallergenic ceramic, they are widely used in the industry today. Zirconia implants are known for being both incredibly strong and aesthetic. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of this material in dental implants.
What is Zirconia?
In the past, the majority of dental implants were made out of titanium. Titanium implants are strong, however, some patients have metal allergies and are concerned about possible sensitivities to this material. Zirconia implants emerged in the early 2000s as a replacement for the traditional titanium implants.
With the rise of holistic dentistry in recent years, more patients are interested in knowing what goes into their bodies. Zirconia has been shown to be safe for the body and it is metal-free, which makes it an appealing, holistic option for patients.
Zirconia is a biocompatible material which means that it is accepted by the body and integrates well with the jaw bone. It is made from a ceramic material, but can also be seen in a crystal form when it is used in jewelry. Zirconia is naturally a light white color that makes it blend in with natural teeth. It is used in dental implants as well as crowns due to its strength and aesthetic appearance.
Zirconia dental implants act as a tooth root when they are inserted into your jaw. They are safe for your body and can be useful for patients who have metal allergies.
Pros of Zirconia Dental Implants
Zirconia is Metal-Free
Before zirconia dental implants became widely available in the dental industry, the only implant option for patients was titanium or titanium alloys. This became a concern for patients with metal sensitivities as well as metal allergies. Due to the chemical makeup of zirconia, it is often referred to as being a “metal-free” option.
The zirconia used in dentistry is an alloy of the mineral, zirconium. In its pure elemental form zirconium is a metal, however, when combined with oxygen atoms it forms zirconium oxide and takes on the properties of a ceramic; in this form, it is considered non-metallic. Zirconia is a white powdered material and can be shaped to form many dental prosthetics, including implants, crowns, and bridges.
Zirconia dental implants are biocompatible, they integrate well with natural bone tissue. This means that the bone cells will adhere to the zirconia implant and help to “cement” it in place. Ceramic materials may be a better solution for those who are sensitive to metals. They are the perfect, holistic alternative to metals.
Aesthetic Natural Colour
Zirconia implants are a light beige/white color. They blend in well with your natural teeth. Dental implants, when inserted into the jaw bone, are largely invisible. However, for patients that have thin tissue or bone or receding gums, there are times where the colour of the implant can show through the tissues and be visible.
In this case, a line of grey metal may be seen when a patient smiles with titanium implants, particularly if someone shows a lot of gum tissue when smiling. On the other hand, zirconia implants, being white in colour will blend in much better and will not be noticeable when a patient smiles – even if the gums recede.
Cons of Zirconia Dental Implants
Zirconia implants do have some drawbacks, one being their cost. They are slightly more expensive to purchase, which causes them to be more expensive for patients. However, at the time of this writing, the difference in the total cost of a zirconium implant and final crown versus a titanium implant and crown is ~$500. Overall the cost of titanium dental implants in Vancouver can vary from $4500-$20,000, depending on the number of implants placed.
Not as Long Lasting?
Traditional titanium dental implants can last for 15-20+ years if they are well cared for. Of course, there are exceptions to this….unfortunately, some implants have issues within the first ten years, and at the same time, I have patients with implants still in function after 30-35 years. Since zirconia dental implants have not been available or in use for the same length of time as titanium (~60 years), we simply do not have the long term anecdotal data to compare…however I have no reason to believe they would not last at least as long as traditional titanium implants.
In summary, if properly cared for, they should last for 15-20+ years much like titanium. In order to be sure your zirconia implants are in good condition, be proactive, and visit your dentist bi-annually for check-ups and x-rays.
Zirconia is incredibly strong, however, as a ceramic material, it is not as strong as titanium. To overcome the potential for fracture, zirconium implants are often wider than their titanium counterparts. The importance of this comes in the treatment planning… you may need some bone grafting to build up the volume of bone to place a zirconium implant, whereas with titanium we may be able to place a narrower diameter to avoid grating without risking fracture.
Zirconia vs Titanium Dental Implants: Summary
Over the past decade, zirconia implants have emerged as an excellent alternative to traditional titanium implants. They provide a metal-free option for patients who have metal sensitivities and allergies.
In this sense, they have made dental implants an option for those who suffer from permanent tooth loss as well as metal allergies. This is groundbreaking for the medical and dental fields as it allows options for those who would otherwise not be able to seek permanent tooth replacement treatment.
Titanium is a slightly more cost-effective option and it is stronger than zirconia. However, it is also a deep grey color in appearance and is potentially visible when patients smile. Titanium is also not an option for patients with titanium or metal sensitivities. Implant failure may occur if a patient is sensitive to this material.
When comparing titanium and zirconia dental implants it should be noted that titanium has been in use for far longer and remains the leading material for implants. However, zirconia proves to be a new and excellent option for patients who are looking for a more holistic, metal-free implant option.
Visit VCCID to Learn More
At VCCID the overall health and well being of our clients are just as important to us as their oral health. We take a holistic approach to dentistry, which means that we consider the health and wellness of your body, as well as your teeth. If you have a metal sensitivity or allergies, zirconia implants are an excellent, metal-free solution that can restore your smile and full use of your teeth. If you suffer from tooth loss, visit VCCID for a dental consultation to decide if zirconia implants are a good solution for you.