In a world of dental implants, there are two superpowers that battle each other for the right to call themselves the victor: Titanium and Zirconia.
Okay, that’s a bit overdramatic, but you get the point. Basically, titanium and zirconia are the two main materials used in modern dental implants.
Each of these has benefits and risks, pros and cons, things some people prefer that others don’t like. So is one objectively better than the other?
That’s exactly what we’re going to cover below.
Titanium Dental Implants
Titanium is a type of metal often used in dental implants because its properties are known to fuse well with human bone. It has been used for decades, and it’s so strong and lightweight that surgeons use it for hip and knee replacements.
However, titanium has both pros and cons.
Benefits Of Titanium Dental Implants
The benefits of titanium implants are clear — that’s why most implants are made of titanium. Here is a quick look at the pros of titanium dental implants:
- 95% success rate
- Long-lasting (30 years or more)
- Strong and durable yet lightweight
Downsides To Titanium Dental Implants
On the flipside, using titanium for dental implants has potential risks and side effects. These are the main potential problems involved with them:
- Interference with autoimmune disease
- Galvanic toxicity (metal taste, the sensation of electrical charge when near other metals, chronic insomnia)
- Allergic reaction to titanium
A Word About Titanium Allergy
Although it’s rare, it’s possible to have a reaction to titanium while there are no documented cases of this happening with zirconia. The people who have had allergic reactions to titanium really have an allergy to Nickel, a type of metal included in titanium alloy.
If you are someone who has allergic reactions often, it might be a good idea to take the MELISA test. This is a blood test that looks to diagnose metal allergies. You simply give a blood sample that’s sent to a lab, and you usually get the results in 48 hours.
Zirconia Dental Implants
Although zirconia has not been used in implant dentistry as much as titanium, it’s still a viable option. It hasn’t been used enough to tell what its long-term effects are. The dental industry in the United States has been using them only since 2007 and in Europe since the 1980s.
Zirconia, which is a metal-free crystal material, is usually a one-piece implant that’s inserted into your jawbone, as opposed to titanium implants, which usually have three parts.
Benefits Of Zirconia Dental Implants
Even though zirconia is the underdog in the dental implant world, it still has plenty of benefits. Here are a few:
- No chance of a metal allergy
- Shorter surgery thanks to it being one piece instead of multiple
- Very aesthetically pleasing
Downsides Of Zirconia Dental Implants
The downsides of using zirconia implants are what keep many dentists and surgeons from using the material. Here are the main negative aspects of zirconia:
- More expensive than titanium
- Not yet proven to last
Which Implant Should You Choose?
Both titanium and zirconia have pros and cons, so how can you know which one to choose when it comes to your dental implant?
Here’s a comparison to hopefully help you in your decision.
Zirconia is typically more expensive than titanium, which means some of that cost could come back to you and be an out-of-pocket expense. One titanium implant usually costs the specialist $300 to $500, while one zirconia implant can cost $500 to $600. However, this doesn’t include the cost of the actual procedure. After all is said and done, the total cost to the patient can be anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000.
Osseointegration is the stage in which the implant fuses to the jawbone, becoming as stable as a natural tooth. Both titanium and zirconia are biocompatible, meaning they will integrate with human bone and gums.
During this process, titanium implants fuse so securely that they can last upwards of 20 years or more. Zirconia implants, on the other hand, are too new to know if they will last that long. Although it’s not always the case, zirconia implants have been known to crack.
Titanium and zirconia implants are made up of three parts: the implant, the abutment, and the crown. With titanium implants, all three pieces are usually placed at separate times on separate occasions. Although inconvenient, the implants can be inserted deeper into the bone and are more secure.
But with Zirconia implants, those three parts are attached to each other and the procedure involves placing the one piece into your mouth. However, because it’s done this way, the implant can’t go fully under the gums and can be difficult for specialists to place.
Titanium implants are much more durable and long-lasting, but many patients are unhappy with the aesthetics of these implants. They usually leave a grey line under the gums or along the tooth edge.
Zirconia is known for looking natural and having a realistic color. This is one of its best selling points for patients.
Titanium is by far the stronger, more durable, and long-lasting of the two types of material. And although it is fairly strong, Zirconia has lower elasticity, meaning it can more easily fracture.
Both materials are biocompatible, FDA approved, and safe to use for dental implants.
The only concern with titanium is that small traces of titanium alloy appear in the bloodstream, but studies from over the past 50 years show no adverse effects from it. We should mention that with titanium, there’s the possibility of a metal allergy. Zirconia, on the other hand, does not appear in the bloodstream and is hypoallergenic.
Full Arch Or Full Set Replacement
If you need a full arch or full set of replacement teeth, titanium implants are the better option. Because titanium implants are made in multiple pieces, the dental specialist has more freedom to alter and customize the implant to your mouth.
With zirconia implants, it’s much harder to adjust to the patient’s mouth. The abutment is stationary and it’s difficult (if not impossible) to angle a zirconia.
The winner between titanium and zirconia will be decided by you and your dentist and will depend on your situation. Yes, most people prefer zirconia, but lots of people choose titanium because they last for decades.
Ultimately, you will decide which one is better for you.