When the original dental implants were first being used during the 1980’s, it was a two-part system comprised of the abutment where the crown or false tooth was cemented in place, and the fixture which is screwed into the jawbone. Initially, these were made from titanium, one of the world’s strongest metals. Over the past 30 years, titanium has gained a great deal of popularity in dentistry and the field of medicine. From hip and knee replacement procedures to dental implants, the use of titanium in these different fields has witnessed millions of success stories.
Titanium is corrosion-resistant and the body’s cells have no problems when it comes to attaching themselves to the metal. While the most common risk when using titanium implants is infection, this can easily be averted by introducing antibiotics into the system prior to the procedure and for a brief period afterwards. Unfortunately, there have been cases, although rare, where the patient is allergic to titanium. Rather than take the risk of a patient having a reaction, many dentists today have turned to using Zirconia or Zirconium implants instead when a person is prone to metallurgic reactions. This ensures that even on a long term basis, there is no allergic reactions.
While titanium implants are comprised of two parts, the zirconium implant is a single piece and this is where the controversy between the two types of implants oftentimes arises. The two-piece system is considerably more versatile in that they afford more prosthetic options. They can be used for removable teeth known as overdentures. These can easily be snapped into place. Additionally, permanent prosthetics or crowns can be cemented permanently or screwed onto the abutment (see above).
With zirconium implants, the only option for a crown is to cement it in place. Another issue with this type of implant is that there is very little room for error. Since a lot of care must be taken when placing the implant into the jawbone at the proper angle or location, bone volume and placement are extremely critical factors to be concerned with. Where long-term strength is concerned, fractures with titanium implants are non-existent. On the other hand, zirconium implants are prone to fracturing over time since they are constructed from ceramic materials rather than metal.
Both titanium and zirconium implants require several months for the fixture (see above) to be fused to the jawbone or for the jawbone to grow against the fixture before the crown can be affixed to the abutment. With the zirconium implants, the healing stage is oftentimes tedious in that the implant cannot be buried beneath the gum tissue. As a result, if there is there is movement of the implant or pressure on it, it cannot secure itself into the jawbone or osseointegrate with it.
For more information regarding these two types of implants, you should consult with your family dentist or dental specialist.