Dental Implants Metal Allergy
The dental implant is the closest restoration available in modern dentistry to a natural tooth. This is due to the fact that an implant replaces more than just the visible crown, it also acts as an artificial root, because of a titanium post surgically placed in the jawbone.
What happens if you have a metal allergy; can you no longer have this as a replacement treatment option? Before answering this question, you need to take a closer look at metal allergies.
A simple allergy is an overreaction of your body's immune system to a particular foreign substance. This response can go from a minor rash or to a life-threatening impact of your body's organs. You can be allergic to anything, including metals.
Metals have played an important role in dental procedures, especially dental amalgam used for tooth fillings. Dental amalgam is a combination of a precious metal like gold or silver with other metals such as copper, tin and, in smaller amounts, mercury. Dental amalgam has been used safely for decades and there have been rare cases of allergic inflammation or rashes.
Even if you have a rare allergy to metals, it is even rarer that it would include titanium. In one study of 1,500 implant patients less than 1% reported any reaction whatsoever. Usually, these metal allergies are to specific metals. About 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel, with even smaller percentages allergic to cobalt or chromium. Most allergic reactions to metal happen with contact from jewelry or similar metal items that create a rash on the skin. An allergy to metal in a body replacement part can result in your body rejecting it.
This now brings us to dental implants and the most frequently used metal with them, titanium. This metal is used in dental implants because it has a special affinity with bone. Jawbone cells easily grow and adhere to the metal, which achieves the strength you desire with the bond between the implant and the jawbone.
Typical dental implants are made of pure titanium or titanium alloy, compounds of two or more metals, which are also biocompatible to the bone and encourage bone growth and attachment to the implant. These metals are similar to the material used in knee and hip replacements.
Why Are Dental Implants Made of Titanium?
Titanium is perfect for dental implants because it has a unique ability to bond permanently to your natural bone. This ability was discovered in the 1950s and was first used to create a dental implant in the 1960s.
The metal used in dental implants is extensively tested and has been approved by the FDA as a safe medical-grade material. However, a metal allergy can still stand in the way of getting a traditional dental implant.
Titanium implants integrates with the bone and create a permanent bond. With proper oral hygiene, they will not fail, and will become a natural part of your mouth. This is the reason titanium is the preferred choice for most types of dental implants. The primary advantage of titanium is its ability to attach to the bone and grow into the implant as it heals, a process known as osseointegration. The material is also very durable so that the implant can last for years, or even permanently. Titanium implant fractures are very rare.
While you will not be able to see the exact implant itself once a crown is placed on it, some people do not care for the aesthetics of titanium implants. This is where ceramic, or zirconia, implants can offer an advantage.
Ceramic dental implants are white in color and can closely match your natural teeth. They can also be a better choice than titanium implants if you have a history of recessed gums because they will not be as noticeable.
Zirconia Implants Are a Metal-Free Alternative to Titanium Implants
If you are concerned about a potential metal allergy before getting your dental implant, a skin test can easily be done by your physician or allergist to ensure the safety of the implant.
If you find that you are allergic to titanium, you may believe that you cannot get dental implants. That is not true. Modern advancements in dental technology have provided zirconia implants.
These zirconia implants were first developed in 1987 and are now commonly used by dentists. This is a non-metallic ceramic material, so it is ideal if you have exhibited metal allergies to metals like titanium.
Some of the benefits of zirconia implants include:
- They are considerably strong.
- Hygienic with less plaque accumulation.
- Inert, with low risk of allergic reaction.
- Aesthetic, a white material with no metal casting that can darken the gum, good for anterior restorations.
Titanium Allergy Symptoms and Tests
Are you just not sure if you have a titanium allergy? Some of the common symptoms of a titanium allergy to an implant include bumps and hives in the mouth, inflammation of the gum tissue around the implant, dry patches of gum tissue, and swelling and sores in the oral soft tissues.
It is possible to detect a titanium allergy before you begin with a MELISA test. This blood test will isolate your white blood cells, exposing them to titanium and then measuring your immune response to titanium. This is far more accurate than a traditional skin patch test, so it is the recommended method of allergy testing. Even if you have a rare allergy to some metals, it is even rarer that it might include titanium.
Dental Bridges May Be a Good Option for Some Patients
While it is extremely rare, it is possible for you to be allergic to both titanium and zirconia. If this is the case, a dental bridge is likely your best option for restoring your smile. Dental bridges use two crowns to support one or more artificial crowns, filling the gaps where your missing teeth used to be.
Since they do not require any titanium or zirconia to be surgically placed into your jawbone, bridges do not cause any allergic reaction, and they can be a long-lasting and natural-looking way to restore your smile.