What are “mini dental implants?”

Mini dental implants are just small diameter implants that are FDA approved for long-term restoration of missing teeth. Any implant smaller than 3.0mm in diameter fits this description. All implants are made from a titanium alloy similar to prosthetic knee joints. Titanium alloys are some of the strongest metals known, while also being lightweight: it’s so strong, the military makes fighter jets from it!

How are mini dental implants different from regular implants?

First, mini implants are a single piece versus the more common two-piece, traditional implants. Two-piece implants utilize a post and an abutment, but the post must first integrate with the bone. This integration takes several months, and then the abutment can be screwed in. By comparison, the mini implant is immediately loaded with a temporary (in the case of a single tooth) or a denture to begin the healing process saving the patient months in the process.

Second, unlike larger diameter, surgical implants, mini implants do not require an involved surgical procedure. Due to their small diameter, they are placed with no cutting of the gums, no bone grafting, and no sutures. A hole roughly the thickness of a grain of rice is made and the one-piece implant is placed. The whole procedure is quick, efficient, and minimally invasive.

My dentist says mini dental implants aren’t as good as big dental implants. What is the truth?

Nearly all dental implants are made of titanium alloys. In fact, the titanium alloy used in our implants is over 10% stronger than the steel used in aircraft landing gear. While traditional implants use a large, hollow titanium post, mini dental implants are made of a narrow, solid piece of this incredibly strong titanium-alloy. Thus, both offer similar strength. An advantage of the mini dental implant is more implants can be placed in the same area as one traditional implant, thus increasing the available support.

How long have mini dental implants been around?

The first use of the small diameter conventional implant was in the 1960’s. Originally designed for temporary usage, with advancement in technology, the FDA approved the use of these implants for permanent tooth restorations in the 1990’s. Since that time, hundreds of thousands of the “mini,” or small diameter, implants have been used for around the world for long-term restoration of single and multiple teeth and denture stabilization in the upper and lower parts of the mouth.

How successful are mini dental implants?

Hundreds of thousands of mini dental implants have been placed around the world. Studies show a success rate of 94%. Based on similar studies, this is comparable to traditional implants, which have a 90% – 95% success rate. Should an implant fail, an additional benefit of the mini implant versus large, traditional implants is it can be replaced in the same non-invasive manner.

Why are mini dental implants less costly than traditional implants?

Several factors make the mini dental implants a better value. First, the procedure is minimally invasive, which means there is no need for costly sedation. Next, due to the size of mini implants, bone grafting or sinus lifts are not necessary. And, as the mini implants are one-piece, multiple dental procedures are not needed.

Am I a candidate for mini dental implants?

Anyone who is missing one or more teeth, or who is frustrated with a denture, is a candidate. Mini implants have successfully been placed in patients who have been told they were not candidates for traditional implants, such as patients who have suffered trauma from automobile accidents. To give us the best outcome, a digital x-ray is taken which gives us a three-dimensional view of the bone in the mouth giving us the ability to accurately plan the treatment.

I need my teeth extracted. How long must I heal after extractions?

While your gum tissue will be healed in 2-weeks, leading scientific studies show it takes 4-months for the extraction sockets to completely fill with new bone. At this time the bone density is similar to the surrounding bone. For the greatest outcome, we allow the full 4-months for healing before placing the implants. During this period, regardless of treatment, we will provide you a denture or temporary to wear so you will never be without teeth.

How is the procedure done?

After a small amount of local anesthetic, a tiny hole roughly the thickness of a grain of rice is made and the implant is placed in the bone. Patients are often surprised how quick and painless the procedure is. After this the mini implant is immediately loaded with a temporary (in the case of a single tooth) or a denture to begin the healing process. For dentures, you will wear the denture for one week, you will come back, and we will make any adjustments needed. For fixed, permanent teeth you will come back in approximately 5 weeks to have your new teeth cemented on. That’s it.

How painful is getting mini dental implants?

Unlike the traditional, large diameter implants which require extensive surgery, mini implants are placed in a very non-invasive manner. Patients will only experience some minor pressure during the quick procedure. There is usually some discomfort 24-48 hours after the procedure that is controlled with medication, and many patients return to normal activities the very next day. You can begin eating what you want a day or two after the procedure.

What, if any, maintenance is required?

Good dental hygiene is important for anyone with natural teeth or prosthetic teeth. For patients getting the permanent teeth options, we recommend regular, annual cleanings at your dentist. We also recommend the regular usage of a waterpik to clean at the gum line. For patients selecting the stabilized denture option, we recommend changing out the securing o-rings annually to keep the denture tight and stable.