Many health-conscious patients ask us which type of dental implant is more “natural.” There are two main types of dental implants—titanium and ceramic. Titanium implants are used by the vast majority of dentists. Our practice uses ceramic implants. Both types are made of materials found in nature.
Titanium and ceramic implants have different properties. These properties can be useful in certain circumstances. For instance ceramic dental implants are usually preferred for the front teeth, because they are white or tooth color and look more natural.
Recognizing that they each have strengths, more titanium implant companies are now designing ceramic implants to complement their metal systems. And many ceramic implant systems are now using titanium designs.
In case you’re just starting to learn about dental implants, a ceramic dental implant has three parts:
- The actual implant, which is placed into the bone at the gum line. This is the part that is either titanium or ceramic.
- The abutment or post. This screws directly into the implant, allowing a restorative structure to be attached to the implant
- The prosthesis, which is anchored to the implant. A prosthesis may be a crown, a bridge, or a denture.
So what are the two types of implants made of? Titanium implants contain titanium, a metal that is found in nature, along with aluminum, vanadium and nickel. Although these materials are natural, they can be reactive. Up to one-third of patients may react to titanium, for instance. Aluminum, vanadium and nickel may cause inflammatory or allergic reactions or trigger autoimmune responses. Many people are allergic to Nickel. Aluminum has well-known toxic effects.
Ceramic implants contain the elements Zirconia, Alumina and Yttria. Both Alumina and Yttria are ceramic oxides of metal. That means they exist in a glass phase and there is no trace of metal present in the ceramic. The Alumina form of the element is different from the metal Aluminum. Alumina is a natural, safe component of earth and clays, and is also a constituent of our bones. It gives our skeletal structure strength and elasticity.
While both metal and ceramic implants are made of materials found in nature, they each have different biocompatibility with individual patients. To make sure patients will not have a reaction, we do bioenergetic testing. We offer four types of ceramic implants, so if one is not biocompatible for a patient, another will be. We want our patients to be happy with their implants, and doing this testing up front helps us prevent problems in the future.