Not so long ago, dental implants were a highly acclaimed new technique, and now they are commonly used as the first choice for tooth replacement. Now, new material will once again revolutionize dental implantology – zirconia.
Metal-free implants (often known as zirconium or all-ceramic) are made of zirconium oxide, a naturally occurring, extremely hard ceramic substance. This material is resistant against acids and corrosion and is biocompatible, which means no allergic reactions should be expected. Until recently, all dental implants were made of titanium, but today’s state-of-the-art dental care includes this advanced nonmetal alternative.
HISTORY OF ZIRCONIA IMPLANTS
Resistant to corrosion, this amazing material is also lighter than steel. It was first discovered in the late 1700s in Germany, and then about 30 years later was first isolated. In the late 1960s, it was studied as a potential biomaterial, and it was found that its properties were ideal for the construction of hip prostheses. In 1975, the British physicist Ron Garvie found that the tetragonal structure of zirconium dioxide could be stabilized by adding yttrium oxide, resulting in an extremely hard ceramic material. This further improved the mechanical properties and increased its high biological stability. The new material strength prompted its nickname, ‘ceramic steel’, and over the past two decades it has debuted in the field of dentistry – first for the fabrication of crowns, and then more recently as a strong, tooth-colored and metal-free dental implant material. It is also one of the best ceramics used today for dental reconstructions. Since it entered the field in the 1990s, it has been used increasingly, and today it is estimated that up to 20,000 of these crowns and bridges are made across the world each day and do not cause allergies in humans. Instead, it is readily accepted by the body. Therefore, it comes natural that we should be using this material for more biocompatible dental implants.
ADVANTAGES OF METAL-FREE IMPLANTS
The advantages of zirconia implants are:
– NATURAL: Now it is unnecessary to implant titanium or any other metal into the jawbone in order to create fixed teeth replacements. No artificial material can be identical to the biological root structure, but from the materials approved for implantation, the ceramic is a more natural choice than the metal.
– HYGIENIC: It is shown to retain less plaque than their titanium counterparts, which will promote healthier gums around the implant. The implants are most often used in a single-piece design, which eliminates a common problem with two-piece titanium implants – the so-called “microgap”. The microgap is a space between the two pieces of a metal implant that may become a trap for bacteria. The single-piece design avoids that problem and therefore is more hygienic, in addition to the hygiene benefits of the zirconia itself.
– COSMETICALLY APPEALING: The material has the advantage of its tooth-like color which, as a base for a tooth replacement, appears more natural than crowns with metal substructure underneath. The white color also eliminates the possibility of a darkened gum line that sometimes occurs in patients with thin, more transparent gum tissue (gingiva).
– STRONG: Zirconium is the second hardest material found in nature, next to the diamond. Again, the single piece design allows for even greater strength
– OSSEOINTEGRATIVE: This orthodontic option has a high rate of osseointegration, confirmed by numerous studies in Germany and the United States.
– INDIFFERENT towards electricity and magnetism: As a ceramic material, it does not have electromagnetic properties and therefore it will not affect the organ bio-vibrations and energy meridians.
– NON-CORROSIVE: A few studies had confirmed the possibility for Titanium to corrode in the human body. The ceramic implant does not corrode.
– BIOCOMPATIBLE and NON-ALLERGIC: A substance is biocompatible if it does not produce a toxic, allergic, or immunological response in living tissue. It is readily accepted and integrated by the body, absolutely inert, and therefore does not cause allergic reactions. It has been used for artificial hip and knee joints for over 25 years. With their recent FDA approval, it is time for these incredible implants to find their role in providing better, healthier dentistry.
– TECHNIQUE-SENSITIVE: Find the right dentist. Metal-free implants do not allow for angulation and requires higher precision in placement. We can only recommend a handful of dentists in the USA, Canada, and Europe that are qualified in using ceramic with predictable results. Nowadays, success is measured not only by having a sturdy implant but also by achieving soft tissue harmonization.
DENTISTS: You are welcome to refer patients in need of zirconia implants and the patient will return to your office for completing the restorative part of treatment.