Do Titanium Dental Implants Corrode – Metal Allergies and Biocompatibility

titanium implant safety vs zirconiaTitanium has been the most popular material for dental implants for the last four decades, and they continue to dominate the implant dentistry market. The reason they have done so well is because they are affordable, easy for dentists to place into the jaw and easy to connect teeth. But with allergies to metals becoming more common and metal free dental options becoming more popular, things have changed. Zirconia implants made of a ceramic have been an option in the US since 2007, and in Europe since the 1980s. Zirconia is not a newcomer anymore and the research shows comparable success rates to titanium.

Are Titanium Implants Safe?

Yes, but maybe No. This question has been debated for many years because there are dentists on both sides of the fence that feel strongly for either case. The major concern for dentists who are opposed to titanium is the risk of corrosion. Corrosion can lead to systemic inflammation, allergies and immunological problems. The confusion is metal biocompatibility issues can take years to manifest and become symptomatic.

Titanium Implants Corrode slowly over time

titanium implant allergy biocompatibilityCorrosion is when a material becomes degraded by either a chemical or electrochemical attack. Titanium implants do corrode. It happens over time with titanium implants. When titanium corrosion occurs, it significantly reduces the life of the implants by leading to biocompatibility issues, metal sensitivities and maybe even other systemic disease.

A few different types of corrosion can occur with titanium dental implants:

Galvanic Corrosion
This type of corrosion is an electrochemical corrosion. It is the most common one, and it’s caused by oral fluids and dissimilar alloys. When a galvanic cell forms and comes in contact with a galvanic current, it causes the weaker metal to corrode at an accelerated rate.

Microbial Corrosion
This type of corrosion occurs in the oral cavity. Plaque develops, which has bacteria in it. This can destroy the bone and teeth over time, which loosens them. The same thing can happen with titanium implants, but it’s the titanium that gets destroyed.

Stress and Pit Corrosion
Stress and pit corrosion happen at the joint and superstructure of the implant. As people chew foods and bite down, the stress can end up causing pits in the titanium that allows corrosion to set in and grow.

The risk of corrosion isn’t the only reason why titanium dental implants may not be safe for everyone. Many people suffer allergic reactions to metals including titanium. In fact the allergies may be caused by metal particle release during the corrosion process. The oxidized metal particles leak out and cause a hypersensitivity reaction or an immunological response. In simple English, it can cause an allergy to the titanium and implant failure.

Titanium Implant Metal Allergies

Scientific research has found that many people are allergic to the titanium in dental implants. Metal allergies are common in dentistry as many people react to nickel and other metals in dental crowns and bridges. For the last 10 years, non-metallic zirconia crowns have become more popular than metal crowns. Now the same transition is beginning to happen to metal implants.

After receiving titanium implants most people do not suffer from rashes, swelling, or skin lesions. What will usually happen is people will suffer from implant failure right away. Or there will be no reaction at all, but some period of time later, the bone, gum tissue or both will become inflamed and the implant will mysteriously fail. Difficulty chewing, gum inflammation, gum recession, increased swelling, and severe pain can be some of the many signs an implant has failed. There can also be a metal taste in the mouth.

It’s difficult to know if someone is allergic to titanium dental implants. Most people who are allergic to metals will be concerned about titanium, but many dentists will say that it will be okay. Often times the allergies can develop years later after exposure to the metal.

When people find out they are allergic to the titanium implants they received, they must have them replaced with implants of a different material. Many people decide to have zirconia ones. Zirconia is also referred to as ceramic.

Zirconia vs. Titanium Dental Implants

Since information has been released concerning the safety of titanium implants, including the risk of corrosion and allergies, many people have been wondering about the difference between zirconia dental implants vs. titanium implants. Deciding on the best type of implant involves choosing the one that has the least risk of complications.

Zirconia has not been used as much as titanium, but it’s slowly growing in popularity. Understanding the benefits of zirconia dental implants, their limitations, and risks can help you decide if it’s right for you. In rare situations where teeth are very short, small or there is a lot of teeth clenching, titanium is likely the best material. In most other cases, either zirconia or titanium can be used. In areas where the gum tissue may be thin and receding, zirconia is probably the best choice to avoid metal showing by the gumline.

Zirconia dental implants are alternatives to titanium dental implants. They are a non-metal type of implant, which has been beneficial for people who tend to have allergies to metals. The ceramic material zirconia dental implants are made of look just like natural teeth in color. Since ceramic is white and tooth colored it is often the best cosmetic choice too.

When looking at zirconia vs. titanium dental implant studies, they have similar bone to implant contact. This means that zirconia dental implants have just as much stability as titanium ones.

People who elect to have zirconia dental implants vs. titanium dental implants may have healthier gum tissue. This is due to low bacterial plaque accumulations around zirconia vs titanium. Titanium material attracts more bacterial growth than zirconia.

Making the Right Decision with Implant Materials

Titanium dental implants has been the first and often the only choice given by many dentists to patients for over 50 years. While they are effective for many people, not all of the people that get them end up having a good experience. With titanium, metal reactions can occur and there is a risk of allergies, systemic inflammation and disease.

Zirconia implants are best for people with metal allergies and sensitivities

Those who have more sensitivities and allergies may want to play it safe and use zirconia. Ceramic implants offer comparable effectiveness and longevity to titanium implants, but with fewer biocompatibility issues. The reason people ask if titanium dental implants are safe is because they may not be as biocompatible as they originally were thought to be. As more people receive titanium implants, additional research has been and will be released about the tendency for titanium to corrode and cause immunological problems.