Last Updated on December 10, 2019
If you are in need of dental implants, your dentist may present you with a couple of options. You can either go with the more traditional titanium implants, or you can opt for the newer zirconia implants.
Not sure what the differences are between these two dental implant materials? I get a lot of questions from my patients concerning titanium implants vs zirconia implants, so today I am going to address the pros and cons of each in detail so you can make an informed choice.
What are Titanium Dental Implants?
These are the traditional type of dental implants which have been in wide use since the orthopaedic surgeon who pioneered them began mass marketing them in 1978.
The reason that titanium became the go-to material for dental implants for decades is that the metal is excellent for osseointegration.
This term simply refers to the ability of the implant and the bone to grow together so that the implant is stably fixed in place.
Pros of Titanium Implants
Here is a summary of some reasons to consider titanium implants:
- Titanium implants fuse well to the bone.
- They are strong, stable, lightweight, durable, and can provide decades of use before requiring replacement. For some patients, this means that they may offer a lifelong solution.
- With their high success rate and long history of use, patients know they can depend on titanium implants.
Cons of Titanium Implants
Do titanium implants have any drawbacks? Unfortunately, there can be a few:
- Are you allergic to nickel? If so, titanium implants probably won’t work for you, because the titanium used is an alloy that incorporates nickel.
- Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to develop auto-immune diseases (or to see those conditions worsen) with the introduction of implants that contain titanium and/or nickel.
- While most patients have no complaints about titanium implants, some report symptoms of galvanic toxicity if implants start to break down, or if other types of metal are already present in the mouth.
What are Zirconia Dental Implants?
Because titanium implants are contraindicated for some patients who are allergic or who may be susceptible to auto-immune conditions, dentists needed to develop an alternative that could provide comparable reliable results. The material they ended up turning to is zirconia.
Zirconia implants are pretty new in the USA. You probably never even heard of them before 2007. But they’ve been around for a few decades in Europe.
Unlike titanium, zirconia is not (strictly speaking) a metal. While it has metallic atoms, it also contains atoms that have no metallic properties. Combined, these atoms are arranged in a crystal structure which can be considered a ceramic.
Pros of Zirconia Implants
- Research states, “osseointegration of zirconia dental implants may be comparable with that of titanium implants. They were also found to have low, well distributed, and similar stress distribution when compared with titanium implants.” You can check out the article in detail to learn more about the benefits of zirconia implants.
- There are no reports to indicate that zirconia poses any risk as an allergen.
- Zirconia should not pose any risk from an auto-immune standpoint either since it is a “crystal structure ceramic,” not a metal.
- From an aesthetic standpoint, zirconia is superior to titanium since it blends in with the teeth around it. It also looks natural underneath the gum. Titanium implants may incorporate ceramic to blend in, but the metal can still be seen under thin gums.
- Because zirconia implants do not feature a separate abutment, they can be installed more rapidly.
Cons of Zirconia Implants
- While resilient, zirconia is more susceptible to micro-fractures than titanium owing to its higher degree of elasticity.
- The downside of zirconia implants not featuring a separate abutment is that sometimes, it is hard to place them at the most ideal angle. This may be more problematic for some patients than others (your dentist can probably advise you).
- It costs more to get a zirconia implant than it does to get a comparable titanium implant.
- There is not as much long-term data on the durability and longevity of zirconia implants as there is on titanium implants.
Consider Titanium Implants if …
- You do not have an auto-immune condition or a family history of auto-immune conditions.
- Do not have an allergy to titanium or nickel.
- You want an implant that is cost-effective, durable and proven to stand the test of time based on an extensive history of use among patients around the world.
Consider Zirconia Implants if …
- You are allergic to titanium or nickel and are thus unable to safely go with a traditional titanium implant.
- You have an auto-immune condition or believe you may be genetically predisposed to auto-immune disorders. In such a situation, a zirconia implant may be a safer choice.
- You have thin gums and are concerned about the aesthetics of titanium. Zirconia may provide you with a more natural look.
- Are able to afford the higher cost of zirconia (which may be up to several hundred dollars more expensive than a titanium implant).
You now know the differences between titanium and zirconia implants. To sum up:
- Titanium implants are made of a metal alloy and have been in widespread use for decades. They are the less expensive option and have proven that they can last for 20-30 years.
- Zirconia implants are newer and more expensive and are made of a kind of ceramic. They cost more, and we do not have as much data on their longevity. But they are strong and offer comparable bone-fusing properties to titanium. They also are safe for people with concerns about allergies and auto-immune conditions and feature superior aesthetics.
Hopefully, with this information, you are able to figure out whether titanium or zirconia implants are the most suitable fit for your mouth. But if you need further advice, I am here to help. Please ask any questions you have below, and I will get back to you at my first opportunity.