Ceramic dental implants, specifically known as zirconium or zirconia dental implants, are one of the newer forms of dental implants.
Just like with titanium implants the use of zirconia as an implant material in medicine preceded its dental application. Zirconia has been utilized in orthopedics and other areas of medicine for over 20 years and with good success. Also called “white implants” they are tooth-colored, metal-free and very tissue compatible. They are now been used as an alternative to titanium dental implants.
What is Zirconia?
Zirconia was discovered in 1789 by the German chemist M. H. Klaproth but rediscovered only in the last decades because of its unique properties. Zirconia is a very hard material and has great tensile strength. Because of its high bio-compatibility, it is used in medicine for hip replacement and in dentistry for posts, crowns, implant abutments and now dental implants. Zirconia has similar color to teeth and is bio-compatible making it an attractive and suitable material in implant dentistry especially when metal allergy, esthetics and metal in ones body is of concern.
Why Zirconia Dental Implants?
Zirconia dental implants are biologic and entirely hard and soft tissue-friendly, there are no allergic reactions and no sensitivity to temperature. Given that they have a tooth color-like appearance, zirconia implants have an esthetic advantage over titanium implants. Good esthetic results can also be obtained with titanium implants when ceramic posts and crowns are used, however this significantly increase the cost of treatment.Ceramic implants cause little to no inflammation, display low plaque retention and in case there is slight gum recession or shrinkage, they do not reveal unsightly gray lines like titanium implants. Zirconia implants do not corrode and will not have any impact on taste in the mouth. Zirconia dental implants are a viable alternative for patients who are not comfortable with or are not able to tolerate metal (titanium) implants in their mouths.
Can any Surgeon Place Zirconia Dental Implants?
Theoretically, yes. However ceramic implantology has now propelled dental implantology further into the realm of esthetic and cosmetic dentistry. Zirconia implants are one-piece (see picture) and their placement angle and position is extremely critical and must be precise. Unlike two-piece titanium implants errors in implant placement cannot be corrected with angled abutments (posts).Therefore any surgeon involved with these implants should have a high level of prosthetic awareness. Enhanced diagnostic tools and surgical preparation steps such as three-dimensional imaging, virtual planning and computer generated surgical guides should always part of the implantation protocol.