Zirconia implants have recently been introduced into dental implantology as an alternative to titanium implants. Zirconia is an ideal implant material because of its toothlike color, favorable mechanical properties, excellent biocompatibility and low plaque affinity. Since receiving FDA approval in 2011, zirconia implants have become increasingly popular and have been taunted as the next generation of dental implants.
Zirconia implants were initially used in cases of metal-free dentistry and for patients with known metal hypersensitivities. Studies have shown a prevalence of titanium allergy to be approximately 0.6 percent.
Initially, zirconia implants were only available as a one-piece implant, which had numerous disadvantages. The one-piece implant is susceptible to fracture, especially if the implant had to be altered because of non-ideal positioning. In addition, because of its one-piece design, it is susceptible to premature overload. However, recent research and development have led to the introduction of two-piece zirconia implants. These two-piece implants allow for abutments to be modified and customized to enhance esthetic results.
Two of the more popular two-piece zirconia implants available today are the Straumann PURE Ceramic Implant System and the NobelBiocare: NobelPearl.
- Ideal for patients with metal hypersensitivities.
- Increased esthetics.
- Retains less plaque and calculus (biofilm) in comparison to titanium
- Excellent flexural strength and fracture toughness.
- Favorable bone-implant-contact in comparison to titanium.
- Lack of long-term clinical studies.
- One-piece may be premature loaded.
- One-piece implants may require modification depending on positioning.
- Zirconia modification leads to the reduction of physical properties of the material.
- Slightly higher fracture rates than titanium.
In summary, zirconia dental implants are becoming a new and exciting development in implant dentistry. To date, limited preliminary studies have shown positive results with less inflammation, less biofilm accumulation, excellent esthetics, and a favorable bone-implant-contact. With the advent of two-piece zirconia implant systems, zirconia dental implants have the potential to become the ideal alternative to titanium alloy dental implants. However, only time will tell as longer-term clinical studies are needed.
(Source: Misch Implant Institute)