Unlike kids hoping for a visit from the Tooth Fairy, adults don’t get too excited about losing a tooth. But at least implants offer a replacement option that’s the closest thing possible to a natural tooth – particularly the all-ceramic implants we place in our holistic Arlington office.
There are lots of good reasons for preferring ceramic over metal implants, starting with the fact that they’re metal-free, highly biocompatible, and biologically inert, meaning that the tooth/organ connection along the meridians isn’t disrupted. They look and function just like natural teeth.
At the same time, titanium – the metal most commonly used for dental implants – has its drawbacks. For one, they can and do corrode – helped in part by saliva, bacteria, and chemicals such as fluoride – releasing titanium particles and ions into your oral environment. The risk of peri-implantitis – an infection quite like gum disease around failing implants – appears to be higher with titanium, as well.
Research continues to highlight other benefits of ceramic as well, such as better circulation in the soft tissues around the implant. Just as it’s important to have healthy bone for the implant to integrate with, healthy soft tissues are needed for long-term stability.
One small but compelling Japanese study looked at this phenomenon in 10 patients who had recently completed implant surgery. Five had titanium implants, and five had zirconia (ceramic). All had been given a favorable prognosis and showed no signs of inflammation or chronic disease such as diabetes.
Blood flow was 4% lower in the zirconia group and 18% lower in the metal group than in the free gingiva around natural teeth, indicating that a richer blood flow can be secured in periimplant soft tissue around zirconia than around metal abutments. [The abutment is the part of the implant visible above the gums, onto which the final dental work is placed.]
“These results,” note the authors, “suggest that blood flow in tissue surrounding zirconia abutments is similar to that in soft tissue around natural teeth.”
Better circulation may also help explain why bone loss tends to be less with ceramic abutments compared to titanium, even when the fixture (the part of the implant that goes into the jawbone) is titanium. Earlier research has shown that platelet rich fibrin (PRF) – which supports healing, in part, by improving blood flow around surgical sites – likewise seems to help preserve bone.
With their high survival rate, excellent aesthetics, and superior biocompatibility, is it any wonder we favor ceramic when it comes to rebuilding a smile with implants?