20 Mar Mini Dental Implants: Pros and Cons
For people with missing teeth, dental implants can be a great option. However, there are also instances where mini dental implants can be a better alternative. Replacing missing teeth is important not just for aesthetic reasons but also for better function so we can enjoy our favorite foods!
Most dentists prefer dental implants over other teeth replacement options as they closely mimic natural teeth. Unfortunately, not everyone has enough bone in their jaw to support traditional implants. This is where mini dental implants might come in useful.
Since deciding on a most ‘ideal’ treatment option is largely subjective and dependent on an individual’s own preferences, a better understanding of mini dental implants would hopefully enable you to make a wiser and more practical decision.
What Are Mini Dental Implants?
The key difference between regular dental implants and mini dental implants is, you guessed it, its horizontal size or diameter. Mini implants can range from 1.8 to 3.3 mm in diameter and 10 to 15 mm in length.
Mini dental implants are often used in the lower jaw to stabilize replacement teeth such as dentures or to replace missing lower incisors where the bone ridge is notoriously narrow. For the former, a common design involves two parts—a titanium post with a ball at the end. The fitting surface of the denture is then secured onto the ball using a rubber O-ring. This is also known as an implant overdenture. For the replacement of smaller and narrower teeth, the abutment and crown for a mini dental implant is largely similar to that of regular dental implant.
Mini Dental Implants vs. Traditional Dental Implants
Mini dental implants have several distinct differences compared to the conventional dental implants especially in terms of size and strength.
Traditional dental implants have a diameter of 3.4 to 6 mm. Mini dental implants, on the other hand, are often less than 3.3 mm in diameter.
But it is also interesting to note that various implant manufacturers have slightly different standards as to what constitutes a mini implant. For example, Osstem’s 3.5 mm diameter belongs to its ‘mini’ range.
Compared to the regular implants, mini implants given its decreased diameter, offer less strength both in terms of compressive loading and shear forces.
The Pros and Cons of Mini Dental Implants
Any complex flap surgery may not required
Since mini dental implants are smaller, they can often be done without the need to perform complex flap surgery.
Bone grafts can be avoided
Unlike the conventional dental implants where bone grafts might be needed where there is insufficient bone to support a regular-sized implant, mini dental implants can offer an alternative to circumvent the bone graft procedure. However, this cost saving could come with a trade-off.
Less discomfort and more convenient
As mentioned earlier, mini dental implants are less invasive compared to the traditional implants. This can also translate to less soreness, discomfort, and pain. In addition, less disturbance to your gum and bone tissues can also mean you won’t have to take over-the-counter medications or experience any soreness or discomfort after the procedure.
In most cases, mini dental implants can be completed in a single session. Oftentimes, patients can also eat normally a few hours after the procedure is done.
Unlike dentures, you won’t have to worry about your mini dental implants feeling awkward or slipping while you’re talking or eating. That means you are also more confident as you know there is a decreased possibility of any embarrassing slippage to occur.
No facial collapse
Facial collapse due to bone resorption can sometimes happen when there is bone loss. Since mini dental implants are fixed in the jawbone and designed to act like the tooth root, this risk is mitigated as long as the implant and subsequent crown is well taken care of and peri-implantitis is avoided.
Potentially less post-treatment complications
If you are a suitable candidate for mini dental implants, you would be pleased to know that current research shows that failure and complications related to mini dental implants are comparable to conventional dental implants, although more light has to be shed regarding long term prognosis.
This translates to a poorer ability to withstand parafunctional forces. For example, If you grind your teeth on a consistent basis, mini dental implants might not be the best option for you as implant fracture risk would be high. On that note, tooth grinding is massively harmful to your dentition and treatment should be sought asap!
Vertical bone requirement
To compensate for the narrow diameter of mini implants, they often come in longer lengths so sufficient vertical bone height is often needed for proper placement.
Unsuitable for many clinical scenarios
Mini dental implants are not suitable for every single patient. They are usually indicated for treatment if the patient has a narrow space where only a smaller implant can fit.
Might end up more cost ineffective
When mini dental implants are indicated for a treatment that is unsuitable for them or placed in the wrong placement site, there is a high possibility of the following:
- Fracturing of mini dental implants requiring future surgical removal
- Fracture of implant crown
- Inflammation (and/or infection) of surrounding tissue and gums also known as peri-implantitis and peri-mucositis, potentially leading to gradual loosening of implant
This might result in the need for expensive periodontal and bone grafting treatments to develop the site for future implant placement, and its important to note that in the event of such failures, the implant site is often worse off than compared to if an implant was not done in the first place!
Lack of Durability
Dental implants are often sold as the permanent teeth replacement solution for missing teeth. Many patients assume that because mini dental implants are implants, that they have the same durability as dental implants. That is not true.
Because of the narrow diameter of mini dental implants, it can be harder to ensure that the crown is placed properly in addition to its decreased ability to withstand masticatory forces (as compared to a wider diameter counterpart). This can result in the following:
- Uneven bite leading to crown fracture and/or temporomandibular joint issues
- Increased Implant fracture risk due to misdirected forces from loading
In some cases, mini dental implants are also used as a means to obtain temporary anchorage for use in conjunction with orthodontic treatment or braces, sometimes as means to intrude or extrude teeth. These are also known as TAD (temporary anchorage device).
Mini dental implants are often misunderstood and have made the news lately for not-so-ideal reasons. However, it is neither the universal missing-teeth replacement nor an unsavory treatment peddled by dentists.
The key is to ensure that mini dental implants are a viable treatment option for an individual’s unique clinical presentation. To do that, make sure that your dentist has an honest conversation with you about the pros and cons of mini dental implants and the other personalized treatment alternatives.
Dr Jonathan Lim is a dental surgeon who believes in the importance of putting a patients’ long-term dental welfare first before recommending a treatment. He has more than 7 years of experience in dentistry with a keen interest in dental implants.