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What are dental implants? The complete guide to the most sought-after tooth replacement option on the market

What are dental implants? The complete guide to the most sought-after tooth replacement option on the market
Published Dec 01, 2019

A dental implant has 3 parts:

#1: The implant: 

A screw-shaped structure that’s placed in your jaw bone and acts as a replacement for your tooth root. Your natural bone fuses with the implant, making it a sturdy base for supporting an artificial tooth. 

#2: The abutment:

A connector that’s placed on top of your dental implant. It will hold and support your artificial tooth. 

#3: The crown: 

Your artificial tooth. Crowns are custom-made to match your natural teeth and fit your mouth.

Dental implants vs Bridges vs Dentures


Bridges literally bridge the gap created by one or more missing teeth. While bridges can restore your smile cosmetically, because caps have to go on the two healthy teeth on either side of the missing tooth, they require an oral surgeon to irreversibly damage them. And although it will appear that the bridge has replaced your tooth, it hasn’t actually replaced your tooth root (which is extremely important, if you want to keep your jaw bone intact.)


As with bridges, dentures are a cosmetic replacement for missing teeth, but they do not replace the root of the tooth - meaning progressive loss of jaw bone tissue will occur. Because the structure of the jaw bone changes, a denture fits less and less well over time, which causes pain and makes chewing difficult. 

Dental Implant: 

Once a dental implant is placed, it stimulates your jaw bone and ensures that it stays intact. Because of this, a dental implant has the ability to look and behave like a natural tooth. 

The Dental Implant Procedure


The technology used in the planning and placement of dental implants is impressive. Intraoral scanners are used to produce 3-D images of your mouth. These advanced scans allow your dentist to meticulously plan and build custom tools for your surgery, without you being anywhere near the office.   


The procedure is an outpatient one, all done while you’re completely sedated or with local anesthesia. 

Tiny incisions are made at the gum line and and your implant is placed into your jaw bone (which, luckily, has almost no nerve endings) then your abutment and crown are attached.  

Surgery is generally about an hour per implant and depending on your needs, you’ll leave the office with temporary abutments (beautiful, but temporary teeth) and come back for your final teeth a few months later OR walk out with your final teeth the same day.  


Experiences vary, but most patients report feeling fine with the help of some Ibuprofen. The majority feel good enough to resume daily activities within a day or two. Full recovery (meaning chewing completely normally again) takes 3-6 months, so plan on soft foods for a while.

The Materials

Titanium has been the standard dental implant material for years. It’s a metal that’s durable, fuses well with bone, and has high success rates - but it also comes with some problems.  

Zirconia, on the other hand, is a metal-free ceramic that’s also durable, fuses well with bone, and has high success rates - but it brings a few things to the table that titanium can’t. 

There are 4 key ways to compare them: 

#1. Appearance:

Because titanium is a dark gray metal, it can often be seen through the gums, giving off a “gray gum” appearance. If you or someone you know has titanium dental implants, you’ve likely noticed this phenomenon because it doesn’t look very natural.

Zirconia is an all-white ceramic, so no matter how much it shows through your gums, it will always look beautiful and natural. 

#2. Biocompatibility

Titanium, just like any metal would, begins to corrode the moment it’s placed in your mouth. That corrosion causes metal particles to be released into your gums and bloodstream, causing irritation, inflammation, and a whole host of other problems. 

There’s also been a rising concern within the FDA around metal allergy and how those metal particles may affect those with allergy to metal, neurologically.

Zirconia is noncorrosive and metal-free. Since there’s no leakage of particles, there’s no irritation, making Zirconia biocompatible with the rest of our bodies. 

#3. Strength

The type of strength to look for in dental implants is compressive strength, or how much load each material can handle before it breaks. Compressive strength is measured in Pascals (Pa), or force per unit area.

Titanium’s compressive strength is 970 mPa, meaning that any force above that strength will cause the implant to break.  

Zirconia’s compressive strength is over double titanium’s at 2000 mPa. In other words, the force it would take to break an implant made from Zirconia is ridiculous.

#4: Medical opinion

Oral surgeons across the US have recognized the need for a metal-free implant and are embracing Zirconia implants as that highly anticipated solution.

Dr. Daniel Ghorbani for instance, owner of Whole Body Dental in Bellevue, Washington says,

“We believe that your oral health is improved when it is free from chemicals and metals that may adversely affect your body. Our zirconium implants are made of metal-free special ceramic (zirconium oxide, ZrO2) that provide significant health and aesthetic advantages over metal implants.”

How to find a great implant surgeon

This one’s easy! dental implant surgeons specialize in the placement of Zirconia implants and are located all around the country! To find your local provider, Click on ‘Find a Dentist’ and schedule your appointment today!

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