What types of dental implants are best for you?
When some people ask about the types of dental implants, they mean the types of implant treatments that exist for patients. Others are asking more specifically about the different types of posts that can be used.
We will cover all of these meanings in this blog, because both lines of questioning contain very important and useful information for our patients.
Types of Dental Implants – 3 Categories
This blog post is meant to be a full guide to each type of dental implant and implant treatment. We’ll cover the different types of dental implants based on 3 different ways of categorizing them:
Size – Traditional vs Mini Implants
Treatment Types – Crowns, Bridges, Dentures, All on 4, Full Arch Zirconia
Materials – Titanium vs Zirconia
There are many different sizes of dental implants, ranging from 1.5-6.5mm in diameter. Some dental implants come in one solid piece, while others can come in up to 3 pieces.
Why Size Matters
The size of your dental implants matters for a few reasons:
Different Levels of Invasiveness – First of all, the larger the implant, the more invasive your surgery will be.
Bone Shape and Density Varies Between Patients – Additionally, the shape and density of your jaw bone is unique, and there will likely be a specific implant size (or multiple sizes) that will be ideal for you to have.
Larger Sizes Can Increase Your Cost – most dental offices charge a higher price for larger dental implants. You don’t need to worry about this last reason at The Dental Implant Place, as we charge the same for your procedure regardless of what specific implants you need.
3 Different Size Categories for Dental Implants
Below are the 3 main categories of dental implants based on size:
These range from 1.5-2.9mm in diameter. Mini dental implants can be an excellent option for patients with less bone density. This is because of their narrow diameter, which makes them less invasive.
Despite being smaller, mini implants can be significantly stronger than traditional dental implants. Conventional implants are usually made of 2 pieces, a hollow exterior post and a small interior screw inside the post. Not only does the hollow composition make conventional implants that much more likely to have micro fractures, the interior screw can become loose, which can completely destabilize the attached abutment and prosthetic.
Mini dental implants don’t have this problem because they are generally 1 solid piece. This means fewer moving parts, which helps lower the likelihood of implant failure.
Keep in mind that mini implants require specific skills and training in order to be placed properly. Many dentists aren’t familiar with them, which is why many offices don’t offer them.
Traditional Dental Implants
We use the term “traditional dental implants” to describe the majority of implants placed in implant dentistry today. Traditional implants are 3.1-6.5mm in thickness, and are almost always 3 pieces.
The additional thickness of a traditional implant can be beneficial. It can provide a firmer fit for the prosthesis (a bridge, crown, or denture) that the implants are meant to support. However, thicker implants are usually more expensive, and they require more invasive surgery. Generally, the larger the implant, the more traumatic their placement will be in your bone and gum tissue.
Moreover, the interior components that are often within a larger implant can make them less stable over time. A single-piece implant has no moving parts and is therefore less susceptible to internal damage. In contrast, a traditional implant with an interior screw can be more prone to coming apart. More pieces means more components that can break.
Small Diameter Implants
Small diameter dental implants are sometimes lumped in with mini implants. SDIs are essentially slightly larger versions of mini dental implants, ranging from 2.5-3mm. They are made of 1-2 pieces.
We place a lot of small diameter implants at The Dental Implant Place. Their extra thickness over mini implants can make for a firmer fit. Meanwhile, their smaller size makes them minimally invasive.
Types of Dental Implants Treatments
Here we will focus on different types of dental implants treatments, specifically different types of restorations.
The term “restoration” refers to the prosthetic that is designed to go over the dental implants themselves. Whereas the dental implants are acting as replacements for missing tooth roots, the restorations are what you and everyone else will see when you smile. They also are what you will chew with and clean in lieu of natural teeth.
Acrylic v Zirconia
Before we get into the different types of implant restorations, we need to cover the materials that are used to make them. The material matters, because it will significantly affect the performance, feel, longevity, maintenance, and cost of your new teeth.
There are also two main types of materials used to make dental implant restorations or prosthetics:
Both of these materials can be used to make single tooth crowns, multi-tooth bridges, and full arch bridges.
This is a hard plastic that is used to make dentures. Implant supported dentures are made from acrylic, as are most All on 4, All on 5, and All on 6 prosthetics. Crowns and bridges can be made from acrylic as well.
- Lower Cost (Usually) – Acrylic is less expensive than zirconia. This is why implant supported dentures are generally less costly than Full Arch Zirconia. However, keep in mind that many offices that don’t offer zirconia will still charge the same prices for crowns, bridges, and full arches as offices that do. Make sure you aren’t paying high-end prices for cheaper material!
- More Absorbent – Acrylic is significantly more absorbent than zirconia. Therefore it is more likely to absorb bacteria and moisture, which can lead to infection if not cleansed properly.
- Less Durable – Additionally, acrylic is less sturdy and able to withstand less pressure. This makes it more prone to breaking and cracking.
- Less Comfortable – Acrylic is also less comfortable. This is mainly because acrylic restorations usually have a ridge that overlaps with the patient’s gums. In other words, the replacement teeth take up more space in your mouth and can rub up against the gums, causing discomfort.
Zirconia is a ceramic substance that’s made from treated and converted element called zirconium. It’s the hardest material available in dentistry for making a realistic prosthetic.
- Enhanced Durability – Zirconia is similar to diamond in terms of durability. On the Moh’s Scale of Hardness (which measures on a scale of 1-10), cubic zirconia rates from 8-8.5, while diamond rates at a 10. In other words, zirconia is able to bear similar amounts of pressure compared to natural teeth, giving it high longevity and performance.
- Natural Feel – Zirconia also feels looks like natural teeth. Because zirconia crowns and bridges have no overlapping ridge, they do not rub against the gums or take up extra space in your mouth.
- Easy to Clean – Zirconia crowns and bridges can be cleaned with a toothbrush, just like natural teeth.
With these advantages, many consider zirconia to be the highest quality material to use with dental implants. Our office would agree. There are, however, cost differences associated with more premium materials and patients are encouraged to learn more about the costs of dental implants as related to materials.
The 5 Main Types of Dental Implant Treatments
There are 4 main types of dental implant treatments and restorations:
- Crowns (single tooth)
- Bridges (multiple teeth)
- Implant Dentures (multiple teeth or full arch)
- All on 4-6 (full arch)
- Full Arch Zirconia (full arch)
Crown (Single Tooth)
This is the replacement for a single missing or damaged tooth. With these types of dental implants, an implant post is placed in the jaw and gum line, while a crown is cemented over the implant.
Most offices charge between $3-6k per tooth for this treatment, including the implant, crown, and surgery.
Bridge (Multiple Teeth)
Bridges are the same as crowns, except that they replace a row of missing teeth. While a single tooth crown will usually only require one dental implant, a multi tooth bridge will require multiple implants. The specific number will depend on the number of teeth being replaced.
Most offices charge for these procedures the same way they would for a single tooth crown, multiplied by however many teeth are being replaced. So if a patient needed 4 teeth replaced, and the office charged $4k per tooth for a single tooth crown, that same office would probably charge around $16k for that bridge.
Implant Dentures (Full Arch)
Implant supported dentures can be used to replace several teeth (a partial) or a whole arch of teeth (a full). Rather than being permanently cemented into place, a dental implant denture snaps on and off of the implants that are supporting it. In other words, it is removable. This allows the denture to be removed and cleaned in solution.
- Affordability – Dental implant dentures are a more affordable alternative to other types of full mouth dental implants such as Zirconia Bridges and All-on-4.
- Hygienic – Unlike All on 4, these types of dental implants restorations can be removed from your mouth simply by pulling them out. This is important, because All on 4 is made from the same material as a denture – acrylic. As mentioned previously, acrylic is more absorbent than zirconia or natural teeth, and therefore absorbs more moisture and bacteria. This is why dentures are best cleaned in a solution overnight. Because All on 4 is permanently affixed to your implants, this actually makes them more difficult to properly clean and more expensive to repair if they break.
- Can Be Upgraded – At our implant office, we can upgrade your implant supported denture to Full Arch Zirconia. If you had your implants placed in our office, we will subtract this initial cost out of the cost of your new zirconia prosthesis.
- Less Sturdy – Acrylic isn’t as strong as zirconia. Therefore, it’s more likely that your implant denture will need repairs and adjustments. Be sure to ask your implant dentist what types of repairs and adjustments are included in your cost.
- Less Comfortable – Implant supported dentures are similar to traditional dentures in that a layer of acrylic will go over your gums when you wear them. This ridge can cause some discomfort. In contrast, zirconia doesn’t have a ridge overlapping your gums. Because of this, they feel more natural. Please note that in our office, we engineer implant dentures to have as little acrylic overlapping your gums as possible for maximum comfort.
All on 4-6 (Full Arch)
All on 4 or All on 6 is a common dental implants procedure. The number in the name refers to the number of implants that are placed on the ridge supporting the prosthesis. So an All on 4 is a full arch bridge supported by 4 implants, while an All on 6 is a full arch supported by 6 implants.
All on 4 and All on 6 are usually made from acrylic, the same material as implant supported dentures. However, an :All On” prothesis is non-removable. It is permanently fixed to the dental implants so that it cannot be removed without professional assistance.
- Full Arch Replacement – With these types of dental implants treatments, you are replacing an entire arch of teeth.
- Weaker Than Zirconia – Many of the problems with All on 4 and All on 6 stem from the fact that they are usually made from acrylic, the same material as dentures. This makes them significantly less powerful than zirconia and more prone to damage.
- Less Hygienic Than Implant Dentures – Acrylic is also more absorbent than natural teeth or zirconia. This is why dentures need to be removed and cleaned in solution – in order to keep harmful bacteria from accumulating underneath the prosthesis in the space between the gums and the ridge. With All on 4 procedures, the acrylic bridge is permanently fixed to the dental implants, making those spaces are much more difficult to clean.
- Not Enough Implants (Often) – Very rarely does our implant office provide fewer than 6 implants for a full arch case. We believe that more are usually needed in order to properly support a full arch prosthesis. Additionally, everyone’s jaw bone is different and may benefit from different number of implants. That’s why The Dental Implant Place does not charge for full arch cases based on the number of dental implants. If you need 4 implants or 10, your cost will stay the same.
- Multi-piece implants (increased failure probability) – with All on 4, the implants used will be standard three-piece implants. These three pieces are the implant post itself, the abutment, and a tiny interior screw that is meant to screw the prosthetic to the implant base from the top. This approach increases the likelihood of implant failure for a few reasons. First, screwing a prosthetic to implants rather than cementing them increases the chances of cracking and breaking, due to the stress of the screws. Second, multi-piece implants are less stable than single-piece implants. The interior screw is small, and if it comes loose, the implant fails.
Full Arch Zirconia
In our dental implant office, we provide two types of full arch dental implant treatments: implant supported dentures and full arch zirconia bridges.
While implant dentures are a more affordable option, zirconia bridges are the highest quality option for full mouth implants. Unlike implant dentures, zirconia is non-removable.
- Highly Realistic Appearance – Zirconia is a ceramic substance that naturally resembles real teeth. It can also be crafted with microscopic precision using advanced digital design and 3D milling. The results are stunning, and the level of customization in terms of size, shape, and texture is unparalleled
- Extremely Durable – As previously mentioned, Zirconia is a converted form of zirconium, an elemental metal. Therefore, it is very hard, greatly increasing the lifespan of the implant restoration over other materials. Not only that, but zirconia gives patients the highest rate of success in chewing any foods they want
- Natural Fit and Feel – Even the best-designed implant dentures will have a ridge that hangs over the patient’s visible gum line. Patients will feel the difference of having this added mass in their mouth over their gums. Zirconia doesn’t have this problem. It takes up essentially the same amount of space in your mouth as your natural teeth do and weighs approximately the same.
- Easy to Clean and Maintain – Zirconia can be cleaned with a toothbrush. This is a huge lifestyle advantage over acrylic restorations, which need to be removed and cleaned in solution in order to be thoroughly cleaned.
- No Movement In Your Mouth – Zirconia bridges are permanently cemented to your dental implants. This means they do not move around or fall out. Instead, they remain firmly fixed to your implants.
- Higher Cost – Full Arch Zirconia costs more than implant supported dentures due to the higher material costs. Keep in mind however that many dental offices charge the same high of a price for acrylic solutions such as All on 4. During a consultation, be sure to ask a dentist if they use zirconia for their non-removable types of dental implants treatments.
Titanium vs Zirconia
There are two main materials used in implant dentistry for manufacturing the implant posts themselves: titanium and zirconia. Both are FDA approved and biocompatible. However, there are a few key differences that are good to take note of.
Most dental implants placed today are made from titanium. Titanium implants have a very high success rate (around 95%) and commonly last for decades.
As we previously mentioned, Zirconia is a treated and converted form of zirconium, a metal element. However, when zirconium is transitioned into zirconia, it becomes ceramic. For this reason, zirconia is sometimes used to make dental implants as a “metal free” option for patients who would rather not have metal in their body.
- Higher Cost – manufacturing plus surgical difficulty
- Lower Success Rate – zirconia is less flexible and is therefore more likely to gain micro fractures
- Less is Known About Them – there is simply much less research on the use of zirconia implants than titanium implants.
- 1 Piece – most FDA approved zirconia implants are one complete piece. The opposite is true for most titanium dental implants, which usually come in at least two pieces. Some dentists prefer implants with multiple pieces, as it can grant them more control over the surgical process. However, having fewer moving parts can also contribute to a higher success rate.
There are 3 main ways to categorize dental implants:
- Sizes (mini vs conventional)
- Materials (acrylic vs zirconia)
- Treatment types (single tooth crown, multi-tooth bridge, or full arch replacement).
There are also 3 types of full arch dental implants:
- Implant dentures
- All on 4-6
We hope that this blog has helped you understand the different types of dental implant treatments that are available. If you’re shopping for dental implants, you deserve thorough information so that you can make an informed decision.
If you’d like to learn more, feel free to contact our office. Our team has over 80 years of combined experience in implant dentistry, and we have placed over 12,000 implants in our office. We are located in Fort Worth TX and have served patients from across the country.