- Dental implants made of zirconia are strong and heat-resistant. They are not allergic, do not cause galvanic shock and are easier to keep clean.
- At the same time, zirconia implants are more expensive and brittle. Clinical studies on innovative zirconia implants are still limited.
- Titanium implants are the current industry standard. They can cause allergies and corrode, but they are cheaper and stronger than zirconia implants.
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What are the key differences between zirconia and titanium implants? Here's everything you need to know.
What are zirconia dental implants?
Zirconia is made from a combination of zirconium and oxygen. While being a transitional metal and retaining great strength, the ceramic material is considered metal-free. During the oxidation process, it becomes ceramic, additionally inheriting excellent heat resistance.
Thanks to its chemical structure, zirconia does not:
trigger any chemical reactions,
migrate around the body, or
These material properties make ceramic implants a great solution for many patients.
The first fake teeth made from zirconia were used in 1987. They received FDA approval in 2011. This material is becoming more and more popular in the world of dentistry, especially by biomimetic and holistic specialists.
Pros of zirconia implants
Give great aesthetics
Zirconia implants have been proven to work great in the smile zone. This material is naturally white in color, giving patients great aesthetics. No dark shades poke through the gums. And since it is non-corrosive, the implants won’t become discolored.
Have a high success rate
Zirconia implants have been proven to work great in the smile zone.
This material is naturally white in color, giving patients great aesthetics. No dark shades poke through the gums. And since it is non-corrosive, the implants won’t become discolored and there will be no need for whitening.
Safe for patients with metal allergies
Zirconia implants are a viable option for patients who have an allergy to titanium or adhere to holistic dental principles. There is no need to take the MELISA test prior to surgery.
There is also no risk of allergic reactions, galvanic shock, or battery effects with ceramic like there is with metal implants.
Resist corrosion and carry less risk of infection
Zirconia does not corrode, which means you don’t have to worry about associated infections like peri-implantitis. Studies also prove that this material shows less plaque accumulation from building up, giving you better protection from oral infections and gum disease.
Bacteria are less likely to stick to a zirconia implant compared to other materials thanks to its non-polar structure and smooth finish. What’s more, ceramic implant margins are above the gum level. This makes it easier for patients to keep the area clean and preserve gum tissue.
Cons of zirconia implants
But zirconia implants are not without cons. You should be aware of the drawbacks before you decide what material your implants should be made from.
Tend to be more expensive
The biggest downside of choosing a zirconia implant is the price. They are generally more costly than traditional titanium implants. The cost of manufacture is about $300 more than that of titanium.
What’s more, zirconia implants are a relatively new solution. This means there are fewer specialists who offer their placement. Since there is less competition, the price for placement surgery may be higher, too.
The one-piece design may hinder healing
Zirconia implants are mainly inserted into the jaw in a one-piece design, without a separate abutment. This makes such restorations less flexible and more rigid. The rods may break or fracture when great force is exerted on them.
What’s more, without a separate abutment, there is no way to make osseointegration a standalone process. The zirconia implant is inserted at once, so biting forces are immediately exerted on the restoration. Healing may take longer and be less successful.
Two-piece implants are considered safer and more durable in the dental industry.
Not suitable for full-mouth restorations
One-piece zirconia implants are not suitable for full-mouth restorations. This is because, in order to hold up a full arch, the restoration must have a custom abutment and be screw-retained.
Since zirconia implants are now available in two-piece designs, with a separate abutment, this issue may be overcome. Still, there is a lack of research about two-piece zirconia dental implants. Dentists may refuse to perform a full-mouth restoration supported by zirconia implants.
Nonetheless, zirconia implants work great as single tooth replacement or bridge solutions.
How to choose between zirconium vs titanium dental implants?
If you are looking for a solution for tooth loss, you are probably contemplating different implant materials. The best type of implant depends on each individual patient and their circumstances.
Many patients develop allergies or sensitivity to metal, which results in inflammation or even failure of the restoration. When choosing ceramic implants, you are minimizing the risk of such complications and treatment costs.
Additionally, a titanium implant can corrode in a wet environment, like your mouth. The risk is even higher if there is fluoride or more metal in the area, like amalgam fillings. What’s more, such conditions make it more likely that the rod will migrate into adjacent tissues or even the lymph nodes.
On the other hand, a zirconia implant is more brittle and the one-piece design may slow healing down. It’s a good idea to set up an appointment with your dentist to discuss whether your ceramic implants can come in two pieces, with a custom abutment.
Success and durability supported by research
Always come with a custom abutment
Unsuitable for patients with metal allergies
May be visible above the gumline or poke through visually
May give off a taste
Can corrode due to the wet environment of the mouth
Good choice for patients with metal allergies
No risk of galvanic shock or battery effects
Easier to keep clean
Usually a one-piece implant
More expensive option
Lack of clinical studies since it’s a new solution
Are zirconia implants more expensive than titanium?
Zirconium implants are usually more expensive than titanium ones. Manufacturing costs are higher and there are fewer specialists who perform such dental implant surgery.
How long do zirconia implants last?
The long-term success of zirconium dioxide dental implants has not been researched. This is because this is a generally new solution. Nonetheless, dental professionals agree that this strong material can last for many years.
Are zirconia implants metal-free?
Ceramic implants are a great alternative to titanium ones since they do not trigger any metal allergies. Zirconium is categorized as a transitional metal, but it does not cause any adverse reactions.
- Current status on lithium disilicate and zirconia: a narrative review
- Zirconia in dental implantology: A review
- Melisa allergic test
- Long-term Clinical Outcomes and Cost-Effectiveness of Full-Arch Implant-Supported Zirconia-Based and Metal-Acrylic Fixed Dental Prostheses: A Retrospective Analysis
- Group 2 ITI Consensus Report: Prosthodontics and implant dentistry
- Two-piece zirconia implants supporting all-ceramic crowns: A prospective clinical study
- A systematic review of the clinical survival of zirconia implants