Dental implants can be split into two general categories; standard implants and mini implants. Mini dental implants are a relatively new option in restoration dentistry and are a result of new innovations in implant technology. Minis typically have a diameter of 1.8 to 2.9mm while standard implants measure between 4mm and 5mm in diameter. Mini implants are very popular among people who have lost a single tooth. The dentist uses the implant to fill the gap created by the missing tooth and then attaches a crown to it that resembles the tooth that was lost.
Mini Dental Implants vs. Traditional Implants
Both types are made of titanium, inserted directly into the jawbone and used as anchors for artificial teeth. They serve the same purpose, but there are several specific differences between the two types.
Size: Size is perhaps the most obvious difference. As mentioned above, traditional implants measure between 4 to 5 mm in diameter, while mini implants are 3mm or less. Due to their size, mini implants are perfect for smaller gaps such as those created by a missing incisor. They also make good anchors for dentures. Traditional implants must be used when a larger tooth such as a molar needs to be replaced.
Insertion: The insertion process is very similar for both types, but mini implants are much less complex and time consuming to implement because the screw used is smaller in diameter. Regular implants can require flap surgery and bone grafting and take a long time to heal (around 4 to 6 months), while mini implants don’t often require those procedures and have a significantly shorter healing period.
Durability: Dental implants are made of titanium. Studies have shown that their strength is more dependent on the length of the screw than its diameter. Both types of implants are strong and durable, but traditional implants are designed for harder wear and tear, which is why they are used to replace molars. Many dentists believe that mini implants cannot handle as much chewing force.
The procedure is minimally invasive, but it does require the use of a local anesthetic. A small hole is drilled into the jawbone, into which the titanium screw is inserted. It takes a few weeks for the implant to fuse with the bone. During this time, the jaw will feel sore and chewing hard foods may be unbearable.
After a short healing period, a second visit to the dentist is necessary. The dentist will check to make sure integration with the jawbone was successful and then fit the custom made crown or denture onto the implant. In the US, mini implants can be used to secure a lower full denture. To do this, several implants are drilled into the mandible and used to permanently secure the denture.
The shorter treatment and healing time required for a mini implant translates to lower costs – they are typically half as much as a traditional implant. A complete procedure can cost anywhere from $400 to $1200 depending on the type of implant used, the restoration placed on top of the implant as well as the geographic location and experience of the dentist or oral surgeon. If the procedure involves more than one implant, the cost per implant typically decreases. Additional procedures such as X-rays and CT scans can also contribute to the total cost if they are not included in the purchase price.