The most significant advancement in dental restorative care that I have seen in my 28 years of practice has, unquestionably, been the development of dental implants. Dental implants have revolutionized the way we approach the replacement of missing teeth by offering alternatives to conventional removable dentures and fixed bridges. Anchored permanently in the jaw bone, they offer the stability, function and esthetics that rival natural teeth. With a success rate of over 95%, they have become the standard of care for the replacement of missing teeth, but relatively few people who could benefit from the placement of dental implants actually have them done due to the relatively high cost (typically $2000-$3000 per implant), frequent lack of insurance coverage, and the often times need for bone grafting procedures to allow adequate support for the implant in the jaw. It has been estimated that almost 40% of the adult population in the U.S. could benefit from dental implants while only between 2-3% have taken advantage of the procedure.
With the introduction of small diameter or “mini” implants, dental implants are now becoming accessable to more and more people. Mini implants are similar to standard implants in the way they integrate to the bone but they are narrower, typically 1.7-2.4 mm in diameter compared to 3.75-6.0 mm for standard or wide body implants. They are, therefore, easier to place, do not require as much bone so the need for bone grafting is often eliminated, and are generally 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of a conventional implant. A significant advantadge of mini’s is that they can usually be put into function immediately where conventional implants often require a 3-4 months integration period before a crown or a prosthesis can be attached to them.
There are some limitations to mini implants. Whereas conventional dental implants have proven themselves to be very successful in replacing anything from a single missing tooth anywhere in the mouth to replacing a whole arch of missing teeth in a broad range of bone conditions, mini implants are better suited for use in the stabilization of removable full and partial dentures and in the support of some short span fixed bridges. Although they require less bone than a conventional implant, they do require a dense quality to the bone which may limit them in some areas of the mouth such as the posterior maxilla. Placed in the appropriate sites, mini implants are proving to be just as predictable and secure as conventional implants.
Perhaps the strongest indication for the use of mini implants is in the stabilization and retention of removable dentures, especially lower dentures. Millions of people suffer from the pain and embarrassment of dentures that don’t stay put during eating or talking because of inadequate bone support. The placement of a few simple mini’s to support a “jumping” denture can be life changing. With a simple, painless procedure involving less than an hour of time a denture wearer can regain a level of comfort, stability, function and confidence they never thought possible at just a fraction of the cost of conventional dental implants.
So if, like millions of others, you suffer with loose dentures or missing teeth but never thought you could afford the cost of dental implants or didn’t want to endure the surgical bone grafts needed to support implants, think again. Mini implants may fit your needs perfectly. Ask your dentist or contact our office to find out if mini’s might be right for you.