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What Are Dental Implants Made Of?

In the 1960s, dental implantology as a clinical discipline was judged by some to be rather disorganized, and treatments provided were often said to be not as successful as hospital-based orthopedic and cardiovascular surgery procedures.

One part of this opinion related to the use of standard intraoral dental materials for implants plus general dental operatories for surgical activities. The biomaterials discipline evolved rapidly in the 1970s. Successful uses of synthetic biomaterials have been based on experience within the field of dental implantology.

The basis for many of the newer and more clinically successful surgical reconstructions evolved within dentistry, with some now recognized as the most successful types of musculoskeletal reconstructive surgery. That has meant that the biomaterials discipline has evolved significantly over the past decades, and synthetic biomaterials are now constituted, fabricated, and provided to health care professionals as mechanically and chemically clean devices that have a high predictability of success when used appropriately within the surgical disciplines.

Biomaterials include bulk and surface properties, and emphasis has been placed on the published literature on how these biomaterial properties relate to interactions at the tissue interface. Surface characterization and working knowledge about how surface and bulk biomaterial properties interrelate to dental implant biocompatibility profiles represent an important area in implant-based reconstructive surgery.

The literature includes summary information on surface and bulk properties for metallic, ceramic, and surface-modified biomaterials. Controlled clinical trials following prospective protocols, of course, provide the final evaluation for both safety and effectiveness. Long-term success is thus determined clinically in investigator follow-up studies and is clearly an area that should be emphasized for many available dental implant systems.

Research and development basic studies within the physical and biological sciences have been supportive of the development of surgical implant systems. One example is the continued progress from materials that have been available for industrial applications to the new classes of composites that have evolved for biomedical applications.

This same situation exists within a broad area; for example, surface science and technology, mechanics and biomechanics of three-dimensional structures, pathways and processes of wound healing along biomaterial interfaces, and the description of the first biofilms that evolve on contact with blood or tissue fluids. The progressive move from materials to quantitatively characterized biomaterials has been extremely important to the biomedical applications of surgical implants.

Titanium and Porcelain:

A typical implant consists of a titanium screw (looks like a tooth root) with a roughened or smooth surface. The majority of dental implants are made out of commercially pure titanium, which is available in four grades depending upon the amount of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and iron contained. Titanium is a biocompatible material that is accepted by the body and serves as a strong and sturdy foundation for replacement teeth. Your natural bone locks the implant into place by fusing (osteointegration), or attaching itself to the implant becomes a strong and sturdy foundation for replacement teeth.

Zirconium implants:

Zirconium is a material that can integrate with bone equally as well as titanium and its use eliminates patient concerns about metal allergies or sensitivities. Potential advantages of choosing zirconium include zero risk of corrosion and its use eliminates the possibility of metal showing through the gums or becoming exposed due to gum or bone recession. Zirconium Implant is also thermally non-conductive but it is debatable if a person could actually feel thermal conductivity from a titanium implant. Zirconium has been in use for a relatively short period so its potential for longevity is not yet proven and less is known about the way it is osseointegrated.

Zirconium implants are made as one piece incorporating the post and the abutment which leaves very little room for error. Healing can be more complicated because the implant cannot be buried underneath the gum tissue and any movement could impede fusing with the bone. The implant must be surgically placed at the correct location and angle, and bone volume is critical. Often where bone volume is less than optimal, it is possible to place a titanium implant and a bone graft at the same time, a procedure that would be riskier with a zirconium implant. Zirconium implants, particularly smaller diameter implants, may not be the best choice for patients with heavy function as they have been known to fracture.

The most popular implant components are made of titanium or a titanium alloy, and there are now many people worldwide who have had their titanium implants for many years. That said, some people do have sensitivities or metal allergies and do not wish to take any chances with their implant treatment. For patients in this position, zirconium can be a good option when used in the right clinical situation.


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