What are Zirconia Implants?
If you’re allergic to the metal in titanium implants, or you’re concerned about the long-term safety of having metal in your body, zirconia implants could be the right choice for you. Zirconia is a crystal-like material – sometimes called a ceramic – that shares many of the beneficial properties of titanium while avoiding some of its drawbacks. There has been a lot of excitement around zirconia implants in the dentistry world, and manufacturers of zirconia implants are working to improve their products with each passing year.
What are the Benefits of Zirconia Implants?
Zirconia implants were first approved for use in Canada in 2013, and they’ve quickly attracted interest from patients and dentists because of their ability to function as a substitute for titanium implants. Compared to titanium implants, zirconia implants are beneficial because:
They’re safe for people with metal allergies
Since they’re a ceramic, zirconia implants don’t cause allergic reactions, so there’s no risk of any metal eventually getting into a person’s bloodstream. That makes zirconia implants a safe option for those who have metal sensitivity.
They’re easily accepted by the body
As a material, zirconia doesn’t cause inflammation and integrates better with the jawbone than titanium. Once it’s placed in a patient’s jaw, the bone seamlessly grows around the base of the implant and creates a firm bond, just as it would with the roots of a natural tooth.
They won’t corrode or react with other materials in the mouth
There are concerns that titanium will corrode in the wet environment of the mouth, and that it can react with existing gold or amalgam restorations to cause health problems. Since zirconia implants aren’t metallic or reactive, they don’t suffer from either of those problems.
They’re naturally resistant to harmful plaque bacteria
Compared to titanium, zirconia naturally reduces the rate at which plaque and other bacteria build up, which helps in maintaining long-term oral health.
They can create a more natural look for the mouth
For people with thinner bones or gum tissue, the dark grey colour of titanium implants can sometimes be visible. Comparatively, zirconia implants have a clean white colour that isn’t visible through thin bone or gum tissue.
Out with Titanium, in with Zirconia?
Zirconia implants provide some improvements over titanium implants, but they’re also not perfect. It’s important to keep in mind that titanium implants have been around for a long time, so dentists and the wider dental industry are very familiar with how to produce and use them. By comparison, zirconia
implants are still relatively new, so the processes for manufacturing them and placing them are still being refined.
Here are some points to consider if you’re interested in zirconia implants:
- Early zirconia implants, especially small ones, had problems with fracturing
- Since they’re so new, there’s very little research about the long-term reliability of zirconia implants
- Most dentists have less experience with placing and adjusting zirconia implants
- Zirconia implants are more expensive than titanium implants because they’re more challenging to manufacture
- Generally, one-piece and two-piece zirconia implants are more expensive than their titanium counterparts
Zirconia Implants – Frequently Asked Questions
Can a person be allergic to zirconia?
Allergies are complex, so it’s impossible to say that absolutely no one may be allergic to zirconia. However, there haven’t been any documented cases of a patient being allergic to their zirconia implants.
I’ve heard/ read that the procedure for getting zirconia implants is shorter – is that true?
The answer is: sometimes.
One-piece zirconia implants don’t require an abutment and crown to be attached later, so in those cases the implant procedure is less invasive and doesn’t involve additional waiting time. However, healing times vary between people, so even though a one-piece zirconia implant may have a shorter surgery time, the healing process may be just as long as it is for a titanium implant or two-piece zirconia implant.
Zirconium is a metal on the periodic table! How can zirconia implants be metal-free?
This is a frequent source of confusion, and a very fair question. Although zirconia does contain some metal atoms, its structure and properties make it a ceramic.
Consider that porcelain can contain aluminum and natural teeth can contain calcium. Aluminum and calcium are both metals on the periodic table, yet porcelain and natural teeth certainly aren’t made from metal. It’s the same idea with zirconia. Although it does contain some metal atoms in it, it’s not a metal and doesn’t have the same properties that a metal would.
I have trouble with teeth grinding (bruxism) – can I still get zirconia implants?
Unfortunately, for patients who heavily grind or clench their teeth, zirconia implants are not ideal.
There simply isn’t enough long-term research around zirconia implants to say that they wouldn’t fracture if they were constantly being placed under pressure from grinding or clenching. A fractured implant would be a significant issue as it would have to be removed and replaced, and that could potentially create a large defect in the jawbone.
Our View on Zirconia Implants at VCCID
Here at VCCID, we believe in taking a holistic approach to dentistry. That means always looking at the big picture and working to understand how oral health supports overall body health. Zirconia implants offer benefits over titanium implants – especially for people with metal sensitivity – but we also recognize that they have limitations too. Equally, although titanium implants have drawbacks, they’re a proven option that has achieved widespread success, and they can be a great dental implant option for many people.
Ultimately, our goal isn’t to convince people that one type of implant is superior compared to the other. We want our patients to feel comfortable with the treatment they’re receiving, so whether they choose zirconia implants or titanium implants, our focus is on sharing our knowledge as dental professionals and helping our patients make an informed decision about which treatment plan best supports their overall health.