What are zirconia dental implants?
Zirconia dental implants are similar to titanium dental implants except they are made from a zirconia ceramic instead of a titanium alloy.
Who can get zirconia dental implants?
Well anyone can get a zirconia dental implant but the real question is who should get a zirconia dental implant. The answer depends on who you ask. The most likely candidate has one of several conditions or concerns. The most likely candidate is someone who has concern about the health or allergy issues of titanium dental implants. Another candidate is someone who has a high smile line, which means they show their gums when they smile, and they have thin tissue biotype, which means you can see through their gums.
Success rates of zirconia dental implants
Traditionally we find the success rate of zirconia dental implants v titanium dental implants is lower by about 5% Elnayef JOMI 2017. However, newer research is showing success rates similar to titanium. One of the main reasons for this is the decrease in fracture rates of the zirconia dental implants Roehling COIR 2018. Zirconia implants are almost always better for the soft tissue in research articles no matter how we traumatize the gums Roehling JOMI 2019. There are reasons to believe that zirconia is better in regards to peri-implantitis Siddiqui J Perio 2019.
Titanium allergy and zirconia dental implants
Although extremely rare the use and exposure of individuals to titanium will likely result in more people developing sensitivities if not outright allergies to the metal. A recent review of the literature indicates that titanium can induce hypersensitivity in susceptible patients and could play a critical role in implant failure. Siddiqi COIR 2011 An allergy to titanium was found in .6% of patients by Sicilia in COIR 2008. We currently believe zirconia, on the other hand, to be highly biocompatible, with no local or systemic effects.
How much do zirconia dental implants cost?
We have an entire post on the cost of zirconia dental implants. However, in brief form we can say that zirconia dental implants cost is typically slightly higher than titanium dental implants. The slight increase in fee is often because the doctor has taken on additional risk of failure if there is any kind of guarantee of the dental implant.
What exactly do we make zirconia dental implants out of?
A zirconia dental implant is a ceramic dental implant. The exact name of the material is yttria-tetragonal zirconia polycrystals (Y-TZP). On the positive side of things Y-TZP is white, highly bio-compatible, has great wear and corrosion resistance, and has low thermal conductivity. On the negative side of things Y-TZP has low temperature degradation, is brittle, and there are manufacturing and surface treatment imperfections.
Problems with zirconia dental implants
There are several problems with zirconia dental implants that make them difficult to deal with for dentists and dental laboratories.
First of all zirconia dental implants are often one piece.
Titanium implants come with an implant body portion and then we later add an abutment that attaches to a crown. This allows for us to correct issues with depth and angle of existing bone. A one piece implant means that your bone and our placement need to be perfect for us to get a crown on the dental implant.
The crowns we do get on come off more easily.
This is primary due to the fact the implants are one piece. Since the top is stock, there is no customization to make ideal. Therefore if someone needs to prepare or cut the top back to fit a crown, they are also reducing what little we have to grab onto. This issue is seen below where the the dentist had to adjust the abutment portion of the zirconia implant and now the crown comes off more easily.
Zirconia dental implants lack the the history and research of titanium.
Zirconia dental implants do not have anywhere close to the amount of history and research that titanium dental implants do Afrashtehfar JPD 2020. Perhaps we do not know all the downsides to zirconia long term in the mouth yet.
Zirconia fractures more easily.
The reason why we make zirconia implants in one piece is because they are too fragile to handle forces the way titanium dental implants can. Zirconia fractures and when it does it can be difficult to remove the remaining pieces from your jaw.