What’s Best For Me – Titanium or Zirconia Dental Implants?

Jan 06, 2023
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Did you know there is an alternative to titanium dental implants manufactured from zirconia? Read on to learn more about both types of implants and learn what might be best for you.

Dental implants are the best method of tooth replacement in modern dentistry because of their similarity to natural teeth. While you may have heard of titanium dental implants, you may not know much, if anything at all, about zirconia implants. This article compares the difference between the two treatments to give you a better understanding of your implant options. So without further ado, let’s jump in and get started.

Titanium dental implants are popular for those looking to restore their smile by replacing one or more damaged or missing teeth. Titanium as a material offers many benefits, including durability and compatibility with the human body, but how does it compare to zirconia? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a titanium dental implant?

A titanium dental implant is an artificial tooth root surgically embedded directly into the jawbone, fusing with the bone to provide a robust platform to support a false tooth (crown). Multiple implants can also support a bridge or denture for those missing several or all of their natural teeth, restoring both esthetics and function.

A titanium dental implant is made up of 3 parts as follows:

  • Metal implant post
  • False tooth
  • Abutment (a small connector that attaches the artificial tooth to the implant

With good care, titanium implants have the potential to last as long as ten years or even a patient’s lifetime.

What is a zirconia dental implant?

Zirconia dental implants are manufactured from zirconium oxide, a white ceramic that is tasteless and odourless. Zirconia is an exceptionally strong material used in many products.

Aside from the material, one of the main differences between titanium and zirconia implants is that the latter is a one-piece prosthetic that incorporates the false tooth.

How safe are Zirconia and Titanium dental implants?

Titanium is FDA-approved for medical devices because it is non-toxic and rarely rejected by the human body. In half a century of use, titanium alloys have had no adverse reactions (apart from sporadic cases where a patient is allergic to the metal).

Like titanium, zirconia is also biocompatible with the human body and FDA-approved. However, because zirconia implants are ceramic, they offer a metal-free alternative to patients who may be allergic to titanium or dislike the thought of metal in their mouth.

Can you be allergic to titanium?

Titanium is utilized in medical applications because of its biocompatibility. That said, it is a metal alloy, and it is possible—albeit rare—for a patient to have an allergy to a titanium dental implant.  According to the Journal of Implant Dentistry, signs of titanium toxicity may include a red, itchy skin rash and swollen gums. You should contact your dentist immediately if you experience these after receiving a titanium dental implant.

So, which is best – titanium or zirconia?

As with most materials, titanium and zirconia have pros and cons when used in dental implants. However, the best material for your implants depends on several factors and your circumstances. Dr. Akinwande will be happy to discuss both types of implants with you to help you reach an informed decision.

Comparisons between the two are highlighted below.

1:         Full arch teeth replacement

When replacing all teeth in the upper or lower jaw, titanium implants are a better choice. Because zirconia implants come in a single piece, it’s more challenging to customize the final position of the implant. Conversely, with a titanium dental implant consisting of three pieces, there is more freedom for the surgeon to adjust the angle of the abutment and, therefore, the final position of the crown, resulting in a more natural appearance.

2:         Ease of placement

For a good reason, titanium has long been the standard implant material. Titanium implants are easy to work with and, in most candidates, can be placed without complications.

However, zirconia implants can be harder to place. Because of their solid, single nature, it takes great skill to angle zirconia implants, which is vital for optimal results. And, while newer two-piece models are available, test results are limited. For this reason, a titanium dental implant is frequently the best option for most people.

3:         Osseointegration

Osseointegration is crucial for the success of a dental implant. It occurs when the implant and jawbone fuse creating a robust platform that can withstand the natural biting force. As both titanium and zirconia are biocompatible, they integrate well with the body.

While titanium dental implants are renowned for their longevity, there is insufficient data for comparison with zirconia because it hasn’t been around for as long.

4:         Strength

Both titanium and zirconia implants are renowned for their strength. But while a titanium dental implant is relatively fracture resistant because of the material’s flexibility, zirconia may be susceptible to fractures because it has a lower elasticity.

5:         Esthetics

Zirconia has a flawless esthetic with a natural, translucent quality that mimics natural teeth. However, most patients can also expect excellent results with titanium implants. Patients with thinning gums or bone may be worried about the chances of the dental implant being visible along the tooth ridge or beneath the gums. However, the dentist can replace the abutment with a ceramic one to minimize this problem.

6:         Cost

Zirconia implants are more expensive than titanium implants as the cost to manufacture zirconia is higher than titanium. Typically, you can expect to pay around 30% more for zirconia dental implants.

The Bottom Line

Both zirconia and titanium dental implants are fantastic innovations to replace missing teeth and restore functionality, aesthetics and confidence. They are safe for many people, but you should speak to an implant dentist to learn more about both options. Contact us for an appointment today.