What is a Mini Implant?
Mini implants were originally designed for use as temporary anchors with orthodontics (braces). From there, practitioners decided to use them for other applications such as for denture stabilization and to replace a missing tooth or missing teeth.
Why Don’t They Work As Well As Regular Dental Implants?
The first and most obvious issue is the size difference. Between a traditional dental implant and a mini implant, the lengths are similar, but the diameter is different and can vary by company. The percentage of the size discrepancy will depend on where the implant is placed in the mouth. For example, if you are replacing a molar, the difference between the two types is significant. The diameter for a dental implant on a molar is 5.0mm, but a mini implant’s diameter is only 2.5mm. We use molar teeth every single day for chewing all types of food, meaning they do a lot of work. Do you really want an implant that is 50% smaller or would you prefer to have one thick enough to do its job and last the rest of your life?
Another difference between the two types of implants is the fact that the mini implant is made in one piece. A traditional dental implant, however, is made into two parts: the piece that is placed into the jaw bone (the implant itself) and the piece that is screwed into the implant (the abutment) that the final crown or denture connects to. This two-part system is much more reliable for a couple of reasons:
- When a traditional dental implant is placed, the surgeon places it where the best, strongest bone is. Even if the implant has to be placed at an angle, the abutment (second piece) can be made to correct for the angle, making the final tooth restoration (crown, bridge, etc) look natural and capable of handling the forces from chewing. This cannot be done with a mini implant, leaving the possibility of the final restoration looking unnatural or being structurally weaker when chewing.
- With the two-part system of a traditional dental implant, it is much more unlikely for anything to wear or break, but if that does happen, in almost all cases the dental implant itself does not need replacing, only the abutment and possibly the restoration. Since a mini implant is all one piece, if it breaks, you replace the entire thing: implant and restoration.
Why Do People Opt For A Mini Implant Over A Regular Implant?
The one place mini implants do have some application is as a temporary solution for someone who does not have the necessary bone to replace a traditional implant. This option is only available for the lower jaw, however, as mini implants are not approved for use in the upper jaw where the bone is less dense. For a patient who has had difficulty with dentures fitting and being stable, this may give them some short-term improvement.
I Heard Mini Implants Are Cheaper. Why Can’t I Get One Instead Of A Regular Dental Implant?
Initially, the answer is yes, a mini implant is cheaper than a regular dental implant. However, due to the very significant failure rate of the mini implant, the long-term cost to replace one is significantly greater. This is because once a mini implant fails, the patient not only will have to redo the implant itself but also the implant crown, bridge, or denture that is being held on with that implant, which can cost thousands a second time around.
When looking at the cost it is also important to look at the warranty, which is, for mini implants, at best up to five years — and that is with a lot of exclusions in the fine print. Some places even state right on their website or in their office that “no one can guarantee how long a mini implant will last.” That is not a very hearty endorsement of a product! Here at Madison Family Dental, the traditional dental implants we use all have a lifetime warranty and wherever possible we utilize an abutment system, which also has a lifetime warranty.
What Are the Concerns With Mini Implants?
Unfortunately, these applications were not researched well enough before bringing them to market. More traditional implants have been extensively researched, often times for many years before a product is even brought to use.
Besides the lack of research on mini implants, the overwhelming concern we have with them is their success — or lack thereof — which is around only 50%. When you compare that to a conventional implant, which has a success rate of between 95% to 98%, there is a huge disparity. And, as stated above, when the mini implant fails, so does the restorative piece attached to the implant’s post. For people who choose to get a mini implant because they are cheaper, this will end up costing them more money in the long run, as they must replace the implant and the restorative item it is supporting.
Don’t Let Cost Sway Your Decision For A Proper Medical Device
It is extremely important to factor in your long-term health and well being in the cost of your dental work. A dental implant is a medical device that is being placed into your body. It only makes sense to have a product that has been not only researched and tested but also done by experts and guaranteed to last for life.