Your Grandpa’s Implant Material
It seems more and more people are becoming aware of and concerned with the myriad chemicals, compounds, and materials that are going into their bodies. It’s a legitimate concern indeed, as new substances seem to be finding their way into our food, medicine and overall environment at an increasingly rapid rate. With all of these new molecules popping up for us to check out, it can be easy to take for granted that the materials we’ve already been using for generations are inherently safe. As we’ve seen in the cases of mercury, lead and asbestos, that is certainly not always the case; toxic materials can sleep through the cracks of public awareness and remain in use for very long periods of time.
Thankfully, there are no doctors to my knowledge that are placing asbestos dental implants. There are different materials being used in the dental implant industry today, however, and it is extremely prudent to be aware of the potential risks involved with any material that is being permanently inserted into your body.
As with many biological prosthetics, titanium has been the primary material of choice for dental implants placed around the world for many years. It was seen as an ideal choice due to its light weight and durability. It is relatively less difficult to integrate with the body than a lot of other metals, and under normal environmental circumstances it was believed to be practically impervious to corrosion.
What We Know Now
It turns out, however, that titanium is susceptible to corrosion as a result of contact with saliva and other bodily fluids. Corrosion can also occur in dental implants as a result of stress caused by bite forces. There is a possibility that the same bacteria-borne acids that cause tooth decay may also have the potential to corrode titanium implants over time, though further research of this issue is still needed.
As titanium corrodes it creates an electromechanical disturbance in the body, causing pain and discomfort. Ultimately it can lead to the body rejecting the implant all together. The broken down titanium can cause metal toxication as it seeps into the soft tissue, blood stream, and even the bone. Symptoms include irritation and burning sensation in the soft tissue, pharyngeal swelling, labored breathing, narrowed larynx and abdominal pain. In addition, titanium oxide nano particles have been shown to induce emphysema and lung redness in adult mice.
The surface of the remaining metal structure becomes more abrasive as it breaks down, which can contribute to bone loss and can also be a factor in soft tissue irritation. Compared with a superior implant material like zirconia, titanium has an especially difficult time bonding with your gum tissue.
Allergic sensitivity to titanium is also a concern. Studies have shown that 20% – 25% of the population has some kind of metal allergy, and titanium allergies specifically are believed to occur in 4% – 10% of all people. Symptoms include oral ulcers, hyperplastic gingivits, oral dryness and loss of taste.
The Newer, Better Implant Material
Ceramic dental implants made of zirconia have many positive attributes that stand on their own merits. It is definitely worth noting, however, that none of the risks listed here regarding titanium are a significant factor with zirconia implants. It is a bio-compatible, nontoxic material that is not a known allergen. In fact, patients who had their titanium implants replaced with ceramic ones due to their titanium allergy have experienced full-mouth rehabilitation from their allergy symptoms. It’s no wonder why Dr. Noumbissi has been placing ceramic dental implants in his patients for so many years. The real question is, why isn’t everyone else?