Titanium Dental Implants
A dental implant is a device used to anchor an artificial tooth. This method is used to replicate the look and function of a tooth that has been lost. The implant itself consists of a metal screw that is inserted into the jaw bone. This metal screw serves like the root of a natural tooth, supporting the artificial tooth in the mouth.
What Materials Are Dental Implants Generally Made Of?
By far the most commonly-used material for dental implants is titanium. This material has been utilized by the dental industry since the 1940s. Today, most implants are made of pure, medical-grade titanium. Meanwhile, others are made from a titanium alloy formulated for strength and to improve the bond with the natural bone.
Titanium is the metal of choice for dental implants primarily because of its ability to fuse to the natural bone, creating a strong bone which provides a solid anchor for the artificial tooth. This is among the most important functions of the implant screw. Titanium is also compatible with both bone density and body fluids, a feature known as biocompatibility. Its low density results in a lightweight yet high-strength implant. In addition, dental porcelain can be bonded to the titanium for a natural-looking tooth restoration. These aspects have made titanium by far the most common metal used for dental implants.
Titanium dental implants consist of a titanium post or screw that is inserted into a small hole drilled into the jawbone. After this surgical procedure, the titanium fuses to the bone in a process known as osseointegration. There are several types of titanium dental implants. These forms of titanium dental implant differ in the diameter, but not the length, of the screw. Mini dental implants are small-diameter titanium screws, usually 1.8mm to 2.9mm in size. They are typically used to anchor small artificial teeth, such as those for the front of the mouth, or to hold dentures and other dental appliances in place. Conventional titanium implants are usually 4mm to 5mm in diameter. These are more frequently used to anchor larger artificial teeth, such as replacement molars.
Are There Other Alternatives?
While titanium has long been the industry standard for dental implants, today there are additional options to consider. Zirconium is one metal gaining traction for dental implants. A zirconium screw is inserted into the jaw bone in much the same way as a conventional titanium implant. Zirconium implants are white, making them more natural looking than the metallic titanium implants. In addition, zirconium is hypoallergenic, an important consideration for patients with titanium allergies. However, because such implants are new to the market, they are not used by as many dentists. In addition, they tend to incur higher costs than titanium dental implants. As a result, titanium remains the preferred dental implant material by many dentists.
When planning to get dental implants, ask your dentist about the various materials that may be available. While titanium implants are the best option for most patients, each dental implant material does have both pros and cons that should be discussed before your implant procedure.