All dental implants have ceramic components: no-one needs their teeth to look like the Terminator’s!
Ceramic implants, however, are single-piece, all-ceramic objects that use no metal components. They are growing in popularity due to a few advantages over the traditional choice for metal implants: titanium.
Dental Implant Basics
At its most basic, a dental implant is a screw. It is screwed into the bone underlying the gums, replacing a missing tooth. This screw is typically topped with a ceramic prosthetic tooth, and can also be used as an anchor to hold other prosthetics in place.
Type of Ceramics Used
Dental implants use zirconia oxide ceramics. You may be familiar with cubic zirconia, a common diamond substitute in jewelry. Zirconia ceramics use a similar material, but with an even denser and harder structure. The color is slightly off-white, like a well-polished natural tooth.
Why Ceramic is Becoming Popular
High-tech ceramics do not corrode. You could immerse one in acid for a thousand years and it would look the same on the other end.
This beats even the most corrosion-resistant titanium, which sheds a few ions into surrounding water. These ions dissolve and are identified by the body as foreign. This causes allergic reactions in some people, and can prevent bonding between the bone and the metal. Over time, this can cause metal dental implants to become loose or infected.
Ceramic implants, by not corroding, cannot trigger an allergic reaction, and develop a stronger bond with the surrounding bone over time, instead of a weaker one. The ceramic screw is actually incorporated into the bone structure as the body identifies it as an inert and useful material. This carries much lower risks of infection or replacement than metal ones. The strength of the bond also increases the strength of the implant as a whole, so that it is more able to handle tough foods safely.
Ceramic Implant Prices
Dental implants are a surgical procedure. Most of the costs associated with them are related to the surgery: surgical theater maintenance, surgeon and nurse salaries, specialized equipment, etc.
These costs outweigh the materials costs by quite a bit. The cost of a titanium implant itself, without the procedure, will be a few hundred dollars; a ceramic implant is more difficult to make and has a slightly higher cost.
However, this additional price is much, much, much less than the cost of replacing or treating an infected metal implant. Since you are paying for an expensive surgery anyway, it’s a good idea to spend the extra money on ceramic to make sure that the surgery will be the last one you need.