Zirconia Dental Implants
Dental implants are restoration solutions used to replace missing teeth. Since the 1960s, titanium dental implants have been the industry standard. With decades of clinical success, titanium implants have become one of the most successful solutions in all of medicine with long-term success rates between 94-97%.
Zirconia implants have become an alternative to titanium implants. They have recently gained attention with the increasing demand for Biomimetic and holistic dentistry. They are actively investigated with new clinical research and rapid improvements in manufacturing and design.
Since receiving FDA approval in 2011, zirconia dental implants are becoming used by more clinicians. These implants have been used in Europe for over a decade and can provide excellent biocompatibility and stability. Zirconia dental implants may be a better choice for particular clinical situations.
What Makes Up a Zirconia Dental Implant
Zirconia dental implants are marketed as a non-metal alternative to titanium implants. Zirconia is a ceramic material that is white in color. For many, it comes as a surprise that ceramics contain both metals and non-metals.
A ceramic is a solid material comprising an inorganic compound of metal or metalloid and non-metal with ionic or covalent bonds.
Zirconia, otherwise known as Zirconium dioxide, is a ceramic consisting of the elements Zirconium and Oxygen. Zirconium has an atomic number of 40 making it a transitional METAL. Therefore, Zirconia implants contain metallic atoms of Zirconium, but are not considered a metal due to its metal oxide structure (ZrO2). The addition of the oxide changes its composition structure, behavior, and name.
Are Zirconia Dental Implants Better than Titanium?
It is difficult to say because it depends on what you prioritize. Titanium has been used longer, has more investigations and clinical studies, and decades of evidence proving it reliable and successful for dental implants.
Zirconia is emerging as a promising alternative to conventional titanium-based implant systems. Zirconia is reported to have superior soft-tissue response, biocompatibility, and esthetics to that of titanium implants.
Studies have shown that titanium and zirconia implants have a similar bone to implant contact or osseointegration. This is an important consideration in implant success and determines the stability of the implant in the mouth and during function.
The Benefits of Zirconia Dental Implants
- Aesthetics – thanks to their tooth-like color, zirconia implants do not have any dark color showing through the gums. This can be advantageous regarding future aesthetics, where titanium implants carry a risk of tissue discoloration or grayness showing through the gums in certain situations.
- Titanium Allergy or Metal Allergy – Allergy to titanium or other metals present in titanium implants is one of the major reasons for patients to seek treatment with metal-free Zirconia implants. While extremely rare, allergies to titanium in dental implants have been described. While most implants are 89-99% titanium, varying amounts of other metals are still present.
- Lower plaque accumulation around implants – some studies have suggested less plaque formation and infections around zirconia implants.
- Zirconia is excellent at resisting corrosion.
It is a poor electrical and thermal conductor- There is no concern of a galvanic or battery effects with zirconia implants.