Zirconia Dental Implants
Long before the FDA approved zirconia for use in dental implants in 2011, this material has been used for dental implants in Europe for more than a decade. Zirconia is an ideal material for dental implants due to its biocompatibility and its stability. It is not the best material for all dental implants, but in certain cases, zirconia implants are a better choice than titanium.
What Are Zirconia Implants Made of
The first major difference between titanium and zirconia is that titanium is metallic in nature and zirconia is a non-metal alternative. Zirconia is ceramic material that has both metals and non-metals held together with ionic or covalent bonds. Like other ceramics, zirconia is white in color like your natural teeth.
Are Zirconia Dental Implants Better than Titanium?
Not necessarily. It depends on which tooth you are replacing, where it is located in the jaw and the overall look you are trying to achieve with your dental implant. Some people prefer titanium implants because that material has been used longer and has more research to support it. Other people prefer zirconia if they are trying to avoid using metals in their bodies.
The limited clinical studies on zirconia’s long term performance are due to the relatively new approval of its use as compared to over 50 years of use of titanium. Zirconia studies have been able to review less than 10 years of data after the implant has been placed in the jaw. Titanium studies have been able to suggest that dental implants will remain in place and healthy for 20 years or more. The studies on zirconia dental implants show that the implants perform as well as titanium implants of the same age.
When titanium is used for dental implants, excess cement can cause frequent complications. The result is inflammation and potentially peri-implantitis. In the case of zirconia, peri-implantitis has not been reported. It is not clear that this is due to the biocompatibility of zirconia or that there is not enough research to produce relevant data.
If you are trying to determine which implant material is best for your tooth replacement, be sure to talk to the dentist about the material’s benefits, limitations, risks, and current types of implant options. The most recent data indicates that both zirconia and titanium have similar abilities to fuse with the jaw bone providing the stability that comes with dental implants.
Advantages of Zirconia Dental Implants
Due to the natural tooth color, zirconia implants avoid any dark metal showing through the gums. The ceramic white color can prove to be preferred when replacing one of your front teeth. If you do not have to worry about the grayish hue showing through your gums, then the dental implant will be even less noticeable. If you are looking to achieve the most natural looking results, then zirconia may be the best choice for you.
While allergies to titanium are very rare, the dental implants are not 100% titanium. It is more common to have sensitivities to other metals that are used to make 1% to 11% of the additional material for titanium implants. Different brands use different metals in different ratios, but titanium implants may include: Iron, Manganese, Chromium, Tin, Vanadium, Molybdenum, Zirconium, Niobium, Zinc, Tungsten, and Nickel.
Based on the data from studies, zirconia has been shown to accumulate lower amounts of plaque around the implant. Less plaque leads to healthier gums and surrounding teeth.
Because zirconia is non-metal it resists corrosion extremely well.
Without having the metal traits of electrical and thermal conduction, zirconia implants help you avoid any galvanic or battery effects.
Disadvantages of Zirconia Dental Implants
Because zirconia implants are newer to the market they are still in their early development stages. Design improvements that include 2 piece retained abutments have only been available in the United States since 2019. Titanium implants are available in a variety of designs and parts which make them ideal to use for multiple tooth restorations.
With titanium in use in implants since its introduction in the early 1952, there have been decades worth of studies and results to prove the long term success rates of titanium dental implants. With these studies and long term use, titanium implants have been improved and redesigned to optimize their performance. Zirconia implants do not have the same benefits of more than 60 years of use. People are hesitant to use zirconia implants because they are concerned about the long term success and potential complications of zirconia.
Titanium has a very high fracture strength and returns to its original shape when it is bent. Zirconia is more prone to break and is less flexible than titanium. Both titanium and zirconia are strong when compressed, but zirconia is more likely to break than titanium if it is bent or flexed. Due to these traits, zirconia implants are more likely to have fracture complications long term. If the zirconia implants are of a smaller diameter, they are more likely to fracture. In general, zirconia implants are more likely to crack than titanium implants.
The newer approach of smaller implants has better results with titanium than with zirconia. If the patient has a thinner jaw bone or has a smaller space between their teeth, the dentist can use an implant with the diameter of 3.0mm to 3.75mm. There is one research study completed in 2015 that discouraged using zirconia implants smaller than 4.0mm to avoid cracks, fractures, and implant failure.
Dentists have started to use dental implants to support and secure dentures; the dentist will place a number of implants across the jaw in strategic places where the dentures attach. Zirconia implants are not ideal for complex dental restorations requiring multiple components. Titanium implants can be placed in varying angles and sizes whereas the options for zirconia implants are limited. Titanium implants come in multiple pieces, can be placed in a number of places in the jaw, and can replace all teeth in the mouth but zirconia implants do not have as great of an assortment.