If you are someone with missing teeth, you have many options when it comes to replacing them. You can have removable dentures, bridges, crowns, or dental implants. Among these options, dental implants are the closest to feeling and looking like natural teeth. They can last for years without needing to be repaired or replaced.
However, dental implants are not for everyone, especially for those who need multiple implants because they can be very expensive. Today, there is an alternative to dental implants: Known as mini dental implants, they are much smaller than traditional dental implants and less expensive as well. Let us find more about these mini dental implants below.
What are traditional dental implants?
We can describe dental implants as replacements for the roots of natural teeth. When a tooth is extracted or has been removed in other ways, there is a space left in between teeth. A dental implant can help replace this missing gap.
There are two pieces to a traditional implant. One is an implant post which is in the form of a cylinder. To place the post in the jaw, part of the gums has to be cut away to expose the jawbone. Holes will then be drilled in the jawbone so that the implant can be placed and screwed into the area. A second piece of metal, known as the abutment, is then secured at the gum line after inserting and securing the original metal post. This will then support the replacement tooth.
The material used for dental implants is a titanium alloy. The diameter of traditional implants is normally wider than 3 mm. This titanium alloy is highly compatible with living tissue. Over time, the bone fuses to the implant, much like what is seen with knee and hip replacement surgeries.
The reason why dental implants are more superior than other tooth replacements is that the implant posts are like a natural tooth root. This helps prevent bone loss, which can then maintain the shape and size of the jawbone.
Replacement teeth then cannot move or change position when they are screwed onto the tooth implants. They will be as stable as natural teeth, and if you have loose dentures, dental implants can help make them secure.
What are mini dental implants?
As the term itself implies, mini dental implants (MDI) are smaller versions of the traditional implant. They are also called small diameter implants (SDI) or narrow body implants (NBI).
Mini dental implants are one solid piece that screws into the bone. The diameter of an MDI is less than 3 mm. It is almost like the diameter of a toothpick. A ball-shaped protrusion is on top of the device. This helps support dentures. These mini implants helps us form dentures that typically have a rubber O-ring that slides over the ball-shaped part.
Like traditional implants, mini dental implants are also made of medical-grade titanium alloy. But instead of a post, mini dental implants have a screw that is inserted directly through the gum tissue and into the jawbone. The dentist does not need to open the gums. There is no need for sutures after the surgery either, in contrast to a traditional dental implant.
The diameter of mini dental implants is between 1.8 to 2.9 mm. The lengths of the implant screws come in 10, 13, 15, and 18 mm lengths. Dentists can then choose from among these different lengths what is appropriate for the size and shape of the patient’s jaw. The length determines the overall strength of an implant.
Who can get mini dental implants?
When natural teeth are removed, density and mass is is also lost from the jawbone. With age, or due to osteoporosis, the jawbone can deteriorate. Persons who are unable or unwell to undergo bone grafts to build up sufficient bone can go for a mini dental implant because they require less bone for placement. The MDI screws can be inserted directly through the gum tissue and into the jawbone.
If you need a small implant to fit a narrow space, then you can use a mini dental implant. Thus, it can be used to replace incisors or if someone has generally small teeth.
If you have loose dentures, mini dental implants can also help stabilize them. However, you will need 4 MDIs to hold a lower denture in place. For loose upper dentures, you will need up to 10 MDIs to secure them.
What is the procedure to install mini dental implants?
We have already mentioned that there is no need to cut the gum tissues when placing a mini dental implant. It can be placed straight through the gum tissue and into the bone. Since it is only one piece, then it only involves one procedure. The entire procedure is fast, less invasive, and can quickly heal.
Before the procedure begins, the implant dentist will take x-rays to identify the best location for the implant. These x-ray images are used to mark the locations on the gums before drilling begins. Mini dental implants can be placed under local anesthetic. The process can take between 1 to 2 hours.
When the locations are marked, a small hole is made through the gum tissue using a pilot drill. The implant is then inserted through the hole. It is then tightened into place using special wrenches and drivers.
The top of the implant will jut above the gums. The patient’s denture can now be measured against the position of the MDIs. Then it will be sent to a laboratory so that it can be modified to fit. When the denture is modified, special O-rings are used to fit the denture onto the implants. This will then allow the dentures to snap firmly in place. In theory, the denture should be wearable for a lifetime. Being realistic, most mini dental implants last 10-15 years before needing to be replaced.
How do you care for mini dental implants?
Once the mini dental implants are inserted, it is normal to feel some discomfort. It is best not to eat hard and sticky foods. You need to remove your dentures daily for cleaning the implant area and the O-ring with a cotton swab and recommended toothpaste. Rinse your mouth with mouthwash. Then gently brush around the space with a denture brush. Clean your new implant after every meal and before you go to bed at night.
MDIs are faster to heal than traditional implants. During the healing period, you will be given a temporary replacement tooth or denture to wear. This will give the implants time to fuse with the bone. Thus, when the final prosthesis is fabricated, it will be strong enough to support it.
Your temporary denture should be stable and secure although you may feel mild discomfort. You can eat but make sure that you only eat soft foods and those that are easy to chew. You can discuss with your dentist your diet. He or she will tell you when it is safe to eat other kinds of foods.
You can take over-the-counter painkillers for the minimal discomfort that you will feel. This discomfort should be gone after only a few days.
Do Mini Dental Implants Break?
Yes they can break, but this occurs very rarely. For the most part, MDIs are very safe to use, and have a very low fracture rate. Breaking of any dental implant, including these MDIs, is due to too much pressure being exerted on the implant when you are biting down. This means a too much force is being applied to the crown sitting on top of the mini dental implant during functional movements. This usually implies that a technical error was seen during crown fabrication in the laboratory.
If a mini dental implant ends up breaking, it must be removed, and another will need to be placed after the healing process has completed (usually 3-4 months).
Can you sleep with mini dental implants?
Most patients who get a full mouth mini dental implant treatment along with their dentures will need to remove their dentures every night. These MDIs are analogous to snap on dentures, and not hybrid dentures (permanent dentures). Patients who are having individual teeth replaced with MDIs need to understand that these are permanent replacement options, and that they are fixed, so there is no way to remove them when you are sleeping.
How long after a tooth extraction can I get a mini dental implant?
At Best Dental, we usually recommend you wait at least 4 months before replacing the missing space with a MDI after a tooth extraction. The reason for this is that it will give the bone enough time to properly heal so that you can have a stable MDI placed during your future procedure.
What are advantages of Mini Dental Implants?
One advantage of mini dental implants is that it only takes a short time to put it in place. It is a quick procedure and you can immediately put a temporary replacement tooth within just a few hours. You can wear this temporary tooth or denture while the implant is healing and integrating with the bone. With this, you can talk and eat normally.
Another advantage of mini dental implants is that the process is less invasive. There is no need to cut the gums and so there is no need for stitches. It also only needs a smaller hole for inserting the implant into the jawbone. If you are scared, you don’t need to be because it is a simple procedure.
Mini dental implants heal fast and the recovery time is short because it is a minimally invasive surgery. Also, the risk of surgical error is reduced because of the small diameter of MDIs. If an error occurs, it is easy to correct.
You can use a mini dental implant even where the jawbone is thinner. Traditional implants need a bone graft for this. With MDI, you can avoid the need for a bone graft.
One great advantage of mini dental implants is that is costs lower than traditional implants. If you are looking for affordable implants then this is a good solution for you. This is especially ideal for people who want to secure their loose dentures.
Mini dental implants don’t slip or feel awkward. They are very comfortable. You can have your dentures realigned and improved using MDI.
Mini dental implants are fixed in your jawbone. They function like a natural tooth root. This helps to prevent facial collapse due to bone loss.
Mini dental implants have been approved by the FDA as a temporary dental product or a longer-term dental treatment.
Other benefits of mini implants include better-smelling breath, easier cleaning, clearer speech, no need for adhesive or bonding agents, firmer denture fit, no slipping or discomfort, and more.
What are some disadvantages of Mini Dental Implants?
Mini dental implants have their limitations. They are not as stable or long-lasting as traditional dental implants. The reason for this is that traditional dental implants are wider and are inserted into a greater amount of healthy jawbone.
When compared to traditional implants, MDIs are less able to withstand substantial chewing forces. This is the reason why they are not used to replace molars. Only traditional full-sized dental implants are used for these.
Mini dental implant screws are long and so they require a good amount of vertical bone. So, if there is insufficient vertical bone, or considerable bone loss, MDI cannot be used in these areas.
You need more mini dental implants to stabilize lower dentures. It takes around 4 MDIs for this compared to only 2 for traditional implants. MDIs are also not ideal for the upper jaw because of less bone density. If it is used to stabilize an upper denture, then you would need between ten and twelve MDIs.
Since an MDI is only a single unit, the entire implant must be replaced if the head wears down after years of use. The advantage of traditional implants is that it has two pieces you can replace only the head or abutment and the post stays.
How long an MDI will last and how successful an MDI procedure is have been less studied so there is very little data available on these compared to traditional dental implants.
What is the cost of Mini Dental Implants?
Mini dental implants cost less than traditional implants. They usually cost between $500 to $1500. This is very much less than what you pay for a traditional implant that could cost between $3500 and $6700.
Here are some reasons why mini dental implants are more cost effective.
- Since MDI uses small screws, then they are much more affordable than the large screws used for traditional implants.
- MDI uses a less invasive process. No surgery is required so it is less time consuming as well. With less time and effort spent then less money will also be spent.
- You don’t need bone grafting with MDI even if you have a lower jaw bone density. With one less step, you also spend a bit less money.
Although MDIs are a lot cheaper than traditional implants, it does not mean that they are of lower quality. The process is just different from that of traditional implants.
Mini dental implants are a good option for those who need a front tooth or a premolar replacement. It is also ideal for those who have small teeth. The biggest upside of these mini dental implants is that they allow those with loose denture an affordable alternative for denture stabilization.
It is best to talk with your oral surgeon to find out what the right solution is for your needs. You can opt for dentures and full implants, But comparing these with mini dental implants, you can have a permanent solution to your needs at a much more affordable price. Your dentist will guide you as to whether mini dental implants are right for you. If you happen to be in the Houston, TX area and are curious to know more about mini dental implants, contact our team today.