Titanium and titanium alloys used to be the most common materials used for fabrication for dental implants. Despite their decades of popularity as the gold standard in oral implantology, the search for alternatives has been growing. Because of increasing titanium allergies and esthetic compromises with titanium implants, the use of zirconia has been introduced as an alternative to titanium. Following several experimental studies, zirconium dioxide (zirconia) has earned its place as a viable substitute for titanium in implantology.
Because of its natural strength and durability, zirconia is an ideal material for dental crowns. Zirconia crowns are best for patients who need posterior crowns, which require a lot of strength for chewing and grinding food. Due to the exceptional esthetics and virtual indestructibility of zirconia crowns and bridges, zirconia is becoming as popular as titanium for making dental crowns and other restorations. Researchers continue to conduct case studies to further innovations in zirconia dental implants. Read below for the latest news regarding zirconia used in oral implantology.
Zirconia Implants vs. Titanium Implants: How are they Comparable?
Titanium and zirconium are the only two elements that do not prevent implants from integrating into the bone. Zirconia dental implants appear to have a similar success rates to titanium implants. Through case studies, zirconia has managed to earn its place as a valuable alternative to titanium. From a biological point of view, zirconia offers interesting properties. It has demonstrated a low affinity to bacterial plaque, small amounts of inflammatory infiltrate and good soft‐tissue integration. These properties might also lower the risk for peri‐implant diseases. More data needs to be gathered before drawing conclusions, but the implications are there.
The principal disadvantage of titanium is its dark grayish color, which often is visible through the peri-implant mucosa, therefore impairing esthetic outcomes. Unfavorable soft tissue conditions or recession of the gingiva may lead to compromised esthetics. In contrast, despite zirconia's excellent biocompatibility and tissue integration, low affinity to plaque, and favorable biomechanical properties, early failures were significantly higher for zirconia implants than for titanium implants. So far, zirconia implants have only been manufactured as one‐piece implant systems because of the material's limitations.
Zirconia-Based Biomaterials for Implants
A great deal of research is currently being conducted on ways to improve the reliability of zirconium-based biomaterials in dental applications. A recent study produced ceramic blocks called TZP-A by adding a small quantity of alumina to 3Y-TZP. The alumina traces improved the stability and durability of the restoration under humid environments and high temperatures. It is important to note, however, that this result compromised the translucency of the ceramic blocks, making the restoration not as esthetically pleasing.
Currently, more clinicians will choose titanium dental implants over zirconia dental implants because they are more familiar with these implant systems, and more research has been conducted on the success rate of titanium implants than zirconia implants. As further studies are performed on zirconia implants and clinicians gain a greater understanding of how to work with zirconia materials, the use of zirconia in oral implantology will continue to rise and break new ground.
Please don’t hesitate to contact DDS Lab if you would like more information regarding the latest updates on zirconia implants. Our skilled technicians have in-depth knowledge about zirconia materials used for restorations and are always willing to discuss specific cases.