About Mini Dental Implants
Occasionally we have patients come through our office asking about mini dental implants. Often mini dental implants are much less expensive and occasionally dentists will restore them without having to wait 3-6 months for healing. Because they are cheaper and faster, this is a popular question that patients ask about dental implants!
How Implants Work
First, some background. A dental implant is successful if the bone grows around the dental implant body to hold it tightly in place. This process is called "osseointegration." Osseointegration is just a big word that means, the bone healed around the dental implant appropriately. Successful bone healing around a dental implant is determined by many factors, but one of these factors is the total surface area of the implant. A dental implant needs to have as much surface area as possible (within reason of course) so that the bone has a big structure to grow around.
When a dental implant is first placed, there is no bone covering it. After a period of 3-6 months, the bone heals around the implant. Bone is not solid. While the outside of the bone is a dense sheet, the inside of bones is very porous. It looks kind of like spider webs.
Because bone is not solid, as the bone grows around dental implants (and mini dental implants alike), only about 40% of the implant surface is actually touching bone. With that background knowledge, let’s go back to the question patients ask:
Are mini implants a good alternative for me?
The diameter of a mini implant is so narrow that in order to get adequate surface area for bone to grow around, the mini implants need to be really long. This extra length required in a mini implant means that you have to have a lot of bone for the mini implant to drill into. Most patients do not have enough bone to support a mini implant so the dentist will end up placing a regular length mini implant. This is usually inadequate to fully support a mini implant, especially when patients start to chew harder foods, and the mini implants don’t work.
Even if you do have enough bone to support a really long mini implant, the surface area of a mini implant is still insufficient to really support all of that loose network of bone inside the jaws. While healing is technically possible, our experience is that mini implants don’t work because they almost always fail eventually. When a patient bites down on their mini implant tooth, the delicate bone that has grown up against the mini implant just breaks and then the mini implant becomes loose and has to come out.
What should I know about mini implants?
As was mentioned earlier, patients often want a mini implant because they can be done quicker and usually cheaper than regular implants. Patients see this cost and time savings and they want to move forward with mini implants. However, given the extremely high failure rate of mini implants, it’s only a matter of time usually before a patient has to have the mini implant removed and ends up having to go through the time and expense of a regular sized implant in the future. So any cost savings is ultimately lost because patients end up having to pay for 2 implant procedures when the mini implant doesn’t work. And any time savings is also lost because the mini implant has to be removed and a regular implant will take 3-6 months or more to heal appropriately so that it can be restored.
Why choose a mini dental implant?
Mini implants can be a good short-term solution for some patients, but in the long run, it’s more expensive and more time consuming. It’s better to save time and money by sticking with the tried-and-true method of regular dental implants and know that you’re getting the best treatment you can right from the outset.