Mini dental implants are often presented as a less invasive and more affordable alternative to conventional implants. But are they as effective and viable in the long run?

Standard dental implant procedures have been in use and perfected since approximately 1965. They are known as a more permanent and efficient alternative to dentures. So there are several long-term studies to tell us the effectiveness of this method. But mini dental implants for teeth replacement have made their way into surgical dental procedures more recently.

What is a mini dental implant?

In the past, a mini dental implant (or MDI) was occasionally used as a way of supporting an interim prosthesis during the healing period of standard implant restoration. Using these as an alternative to standard-sized implants is fairly new.

Both implants are made of biocompatible titanium, but mini dental implants have a small diameter of about 2 – 3.5 mm (as compared to 5 – 6 mm of a standard titanium implant). A mini implant is designed as one solid piece with a ball shaped structure at the end and a socket with a rubber O ring. The O ring keeps the tooth attached to the post.

Why would you choose a mini dental implant?

Patients are tempted to opt for mini dental implants in NZ and elsewhere for the convenience they offer. Mini implants are available at a lower cost than standard implants and the surgical procedure required for them is less invasive. Mini dental implant procedures also require only local anaesthesia to be used.

However, since this is a relatively new solution, the risks and benefits are still being explored by the dental community. So far, this is what is known about mini dental implants.

Long-term reliability of mini implant systems is yet to be definitively assessed. These are quite new to the marketplace whereas traditional dental implants are known to enjoy high success rates based on the results of long-term studies.

It has been noted that mini dental implants are susceptible to wearing down prematurely as they have a lower bite force tolerance. When compared to traditional implants, they are more likely to break or even bend. This is why mini dental implants are not recommended for people with bruxism (those with the habit of grinding their teeth together).

Mini dental implants costs (per implant) are lower than those of traditional dental implants. However, for a large tooth like a molar, you may need to use two or three mini dental implants in place of just one standard implant to secure the tooth well. This drives costs up. So when it comes to replacing multiple teeth, mini dental implants may not be as cost-effective as you can be led to believe.

Mini dental implants require adequate bone structure to support them. The procedure requires small precise holes to be drilled into the jawbone and this cannot be done in areas where there is bone loss.

Possibility of problems: Because these are a relatively new, untested technology, there are multiple problems that can occur:

  • More implants needed to offset the smaller size
  • Long term survival rates of implants unknown
  • Potential for fracture during placement
  • Due to the all-in-one design, the tooth is less forgiving in terms of appearance and tooth evenness
  • Problems related to the surgical procedure

As a result, mini implants are not considered suitable for cases that need a single tooth replaced and are not recommended for those patients who require a long term support structure for their dentures.

We should note that procedures like bone grafting that may sometimes be required to fix in a standard implant screw are done only to increase the strength and long term durability of the implant. At Dental Artistry we take every precaution to ensure that your implants last for years and see a 95% success rate for standard dental implant procedures.

Every tooth is different, not one size fits all

At our dental clinic, take a precautionary approach to mini dental implants for the risk factors listed above and use them only where they are the best solution for a patient’s unique situation. We also have experience rectifying situations where mini dental implants have failed to last the distance.

For situations where traditional dental implants are not the best solution, we offer a hybrid implant. This bridges the gap between mini and standard implants. They are also made to be budget friendly and a more viable option when other routes to teeth replacement aren’t possible.

Whether you come in to our dentistry for a simple teeth whitening procedure or you require a more complex implant procedure for crowns or bridges, we always aim to give you a solution that lasts longest and will best benefit your quality of life. We make decisions based on your health and wellbeing, and will work with you to create the best outcome – and the most natural, long-term, natural smile.

Contact us to book a consultation and discuss the best options for you.