Dental Implants Metal Allergy
Since they were first created in 1960, dental implants have safely and successfully provided a functional, attractive, and long-lasting tooth replacement option in the world of dentistry. For many, dental implants have greatly improved quality of life by addressing the multiple deficiencies of conventional dentures. Today, one doesn’t have to settle for the dentures that slip and slide and make it difficult to enjoy foods and conversations – they can opt for dental implants, instead.
Those with metal allergies may wonder: are dental implants an option for me, too? The answer, happily, is yes; even those with metal allergies can enjoy the many benefits of dental implants by simply opting for zirconia implants, which have their own unique features and benefits.
The History of Titanium Dental Implants
Dental implants are traditionally composed of titanium, a metal alloy that is prized not only for its strength but also its biocompatibility. For most people, titanium is easily and seamlessly accepted by the body. Not only is it typically not rejected by the body, it is actually able to fuse with certain tissues. This is a very important aspect of its use in dental implants, as the implant fixture (the small post that is inserted into the jaw below the gumline) must be able to fuse with the bone tissue itself. This fusion – also referred to as osseointegration – is what gives dental implants their notable strength and functionality; they are able to act like natural teeth because they have the deep structural support that natural teeth enjoy (the roots).
Titanium also strong enough to withstand the repeated pressure of everyday biting and chewing of foods, which is considerable. Because the jaw can generate so much force, it is important to use a material that can absorb it without fracturing or breaking; this is another reason that titanium has long been the gold standard in the creation of dental implants.
Titanium and Related Allergies
For most, titanium is perfectly safe and easily adapted to the body. For a very small portion of the population – less than 1%, in fact – titanium is not tolerated. Those who have an allergy to titanium may experience a rash at the contact site or the body may even try to reject or expel an item that is composed of titanium.
Those who have other metal allergies, such as nickel, cobalt, or chromium, it is recommended to be tested for a potential titanium allergy before going ahead with titanium dental implants. It is entirely possible to be allergic to one metal but not another; while nearly 17% of women are allergic to nickel, for example, less than 1% are allergic to titanium. If you have a metal allergy, don’t fret – just check with your allergist about titanium sensitivity testing. The specific test that is used to test for titanium allergies is the MELISA test. Given the low number of those who are allergic to titanium, chances are that it won’t be an issue.
Zirconia Dental Implants as an Alternative to Titanium Implants
For those who do have a titanium allergy, zirconia dental implants are a great alternative. Functioning much in the same way as titanium implants, zirconia implants are also strong, durable, and attractive.
In contrast to titanium, zirconia is a ceramic alloy material. While allergies to zirconia are not unheard of, they are also vanishingly small, and the chances of being allergic to both titanium and zirconia are incredibly slim.
Like titanium, zirconia is incredibly strong, durable, and corrosion resistant. Importantly, they are also able to fuse (osseointegrate) with bone. This makes zirconia implants and excellent choice for implants, not only as an alternative but on their own merits.
Added Benefits of Zirconia Implants
In addition to checking many of the same boxes, zirconia also has some benefits that titanium does not. For one thing, zirconia has even more robust hygienic properties than titanium does. While zirconia can fuse with bone easily and securely, plaque and tartar are not able to fuse with zirconia. This results in dental implants that are even easier to keep clean and free from build-up.
Finally, the color of zirconia is an added benefit to this particular application; naturally tooth colored, zirconia is even better able to blend seamlessly in one’s smile. No flashes of metal will ever betray a zirconia implant; in fact, some choose zirconia implants just for this reason!
Considerations Regarding Zirconia Implants
While zirconia is an excellent alternative material for dental implants, there are some considerations to keep in mind. On one hand, it is typically more expensive than titanium. Zirconia implants are also usually created in fewer pieces, which is both a benefit and a potential drawback. While the placement process can be shorter, it can also mean more complex repairs or even replacement if an implant should break or fail. Though zirconia is very strong and durable, it doesn’t enjoy quite the same level of strength as titanium, meaning that breaks of zirconia implants (while not common) happen more than breaks of titanium implants.
However, zirconia implants continue to evolve and improve. If you think that zirconia implants might be a good choice for you due to a titanium allergy, the best thing to do is to talk over the pros and cons with a dentist you trust.
Other Alternatives to Dental Implants
If you are also allergic to zirconia or simply prefer not to have any materials inserted into your gums or jaw, dental implants may not be for you. In this case, there are other options to consider for full or partial tooth replacement. Conventional dentures can be used to replace either some or all of your teeth and don’t require any kind of surgical intervention to be created or used.
Dental bridges, likewise, can serve to replace a small number of teeth between two existing teeth; bridges use the structure that exists around the missing teeth to support the prosthetics rather than the surgically embedded dental implant fixtures.
For more information on all of the options available to you, call your dentist’s office today to set up an individualized, no-pressure consultation.