What Are Dental Implants Made Of? Exploring the Latest Advancements

what are dental implants made of?

Since 1952, when an orthopedic surgeon accidentally witnessed the biological fusion of a titanium cylinder with the femur bone of a rabbit, a revolution in dental implants has ensued.

This process of fusion, later coined as osseointegration, has enabled dental implants to not only return the function of teeth to people who face edentulism (the lack of teeth) but also return to them the natural aesthetics of their smiles as well. 

If we are to understand this technology, the best place to start would be to answer the question “What are dental implants made of?”. This blog will elucidate the composition of dental implants and also look at recent innovations in the field.

Biocompatibility and Titanium

We have mentioned that the bone can form structural fusions with materials. However, not all types of materials make the cut. Our material has to be completely biocompatible, as the body must welcome it and treat it as non-invasive. Titanium is perfect for the job as it ticks all the boxes and offers additional benefits like its resistance to corrosion.

This metal forms a stable oxide layer on its surface, which acts as a preventive measure against corrosion. Titanium implants can be either commercially pure or alloyed, with the latter being used to improve mechanical properties. The most common titanium alloy used in dental implants is Ti-6Al-4V, which includes aluminum and vanadium.

Scientific studies have consistently proven time and again that dental implants have a considerably high rate of success which exceeds 95%; this prosthesis will last you for decades and has extremely low odds of dental implant failure. You can get them in unique shapes and sizes to accommodate different clinical situations. 

Zirconia: A Metal-Free Alternative

As an implant material, Zirconia has emerged as a promising alternative to titanium over recent years. It’s a type of biocompatible ceramic that looks like natural teeth. It’s white in color and strong, too, so it’s a good dental implant material that also has good fracture resistance.

One of Zirconia’s selling points is its hypoallergenic nature, so for people who have allergies or metal sensitivities this is a godsend. Some well-cited research also shows that zirconia implants exhibit good osseointegration, comparable to titanium. But of course, long-term studies on the durability and success rates of zirconia implants continue to progress, and we need more data to confirm their efficacy over lengthy periods of time.

Innovations in Surface Modifications

The make-up of the surface of an implant influences many minute factors that can make a difference in success rates and longevity. Additionally, the make up of an implant will be differerent for different implants; For instance, the materials used in all-on-4 implants will be different to zygomatic implants. Scientists have built specific surface modification techniques so that osseointegration can happen faster and stronger. One of them is micro- and nano-textured surfaces, which are specific modifications that promote better cell adhesion (which enhances how well the implant and bone cells ‘stick’ to each other) and bone growth.

Hydrophilic surfaces (that mix well with water) have also gained some attention from scientists over the years. The surface attracts water and blood, which makes better bone healing possible. Studies have reported that when using hydrophilic surfaces, the initial stages of osseointegration appear to progress more quickly, which means that the implant is becoming stable much faster.

We should also mention that there are ‘coatings’, such as hydroxyapatite and bioactive glass, which scientists are exploring to enhance the interaction between bone and implant.

Hydroxyapatite occurs in human bone naturally and when scientists applied it to the implant surface they noticed an improved bone growth and integration. Bioactive glass has been known for years for helping the bone to regenerate and is also being scientifically investigated as a potential coating material.

Biodegradable Implants: The Future of Implant Dentistry

Something to look forward to in dental science are implants that are biodegradable, which can be broken down in the body. These dissolve in the body little by little as the bone regenerates and most of the time are made from materials such as polylactic acid (PLA) and polyglycolic acid (PGA), materials that are already used in sutures and orthopedic devices.

But why exactly will a biodegradable implant be useful? The primary reason is that they eliminate the need for you to attend a second surgery to remove the implant once the bone has healed. You get a considerable reduction in the overall treatment time and cost for patients.

Patient-Specific Implants: Personalized Dental Solutions

The digitization of implant-making using the capabilities of technology such as computer-aided design (CAD), CBCT digital imaging for intricate 3D models of your mouth and 3D printing has made this treatment suitable for almost every person who walks into a clinic. The implants themselves are made to fit around the unique anatomy of your mouth and will precisely fit around all the crevices and edges. 

3D printing can be pretty valuable to technicians who are working on making the most precise dental implant for you. Digital imaging gives them measurements that humans can’t perform as fast as computers and 3D printers give them an exactness in the prosthetic that the patient can truly benefit from, especially when situations arise when the patient cannot wear a prosthetic of a standard size and shape due to unique oral structures or certain irregularities.

The Role of Bioactive Materials

Dental scientists are also probing some bioactive materials (that have shown to induce certain reactions biologically). There are a lot of different kinds of bioactive materials which do many different types of reactions such as releasing ions or stimulate bone growth and help osseointegration along. One good example is calcium phosphate coatings, which can release calcium and phosphate ions, which help in making your bones stronger.

Furthermore, growth factors such as bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), are also being looked at and even incorporated into implant surfaces. These can speed up the body’s natural healing processes, and lend some support to the integration of implant and bone.

Conclusion

There are a variety of materials that make the dental implant what it is, each with its unique advantages as well as limitations. Titanium remains the gold standard, but Zirconia also offers an excellent metal-free alternative for people who have allergies or those who want a better looking option. Recent scientific innovations are paving the way for the next generation of superpowered dental implants. 

If you’re thinking of getting dental implants placed or are looking for assessments of your dental problems by professionals who are experienced and highly qualified, feel free to visit or contact us at the Fremont Implant Clinic, a premier clinic in Fremont, California.

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