Mini Implants: What are They?


If you’ve heard about dental implants to replace missing teeth, but suspect that you may not be a candidate for treatment, mini implants offer a unique alternative for some people.

Dental Implant and x-ray picture as background

Drastically smaller than a traditional dental implant,a mini implant takes up about half of the space traditional implant “roots” do. They can be installed and “loaded” (the prosthetic tooth placed over it) on the very same day, whereas traditional implants may require a few different appointments and usually a bit of healing time.

The appeal of mini implants is that almost everyone has enough bone to support them. Unfortunately, there are a few more things that need to be considered before getting one placed.

Convenient for Limited Aesthetics and Stability:

Because of their small size, mini implants are typically only reserved for instances when there is very little bone or to provide a limited amount of stability to a removable denture. In some cases, they may be able to support a crown, if the tooth is not frequently used for biting, such as a lateral incisor (the teeth adjacent to the two front teeth).

Their slim design allows mini implants to slip right into the most unconventional areas. Because of their small size, the bone anatomy in that portion of the jaw does not have be very large.

When are Mini Implants Contraindicated?

A mini implant cannot be used for conventional tooth replacement. It simply is not capable of withstanding normal biting and chewing forces on a frequent basis. Thus, their use is fairly restricted. If you were to put a traditional, load-bearing crown or bridge over it, the mini implant would quickly fail. This could also damage the bone around it.

But I’m Not a Candidate for Traditional Treatments:

If you fear that full-sized dental implants are not an option, you may want to consider getting a second opinion. Depending on the specific anatomy of your mouth, a bone graft or similar procedure can make implants a viable choice for your tooth replacement needs. Technology has become quite advanced to the point that it is very rare for a person to not be a candidate for full-size implants.

Questions to ask your dentist:

Check with your dentist to find out whether conventional implant treatments are an option for you. Odds are, it can be done and you’ll enjoy your new teeth for a lifetime. Be sure to let your dentist know about any underlying health conditions or medications that you are taking, as this can impact your implant therapy.

  1. Are you a board certified specialist?

While any licensed dentist has the legal prerogative to place dental implants, specialty boards mandate additional extensive training as well as rigorous testing. In other words, a board certified dental surgeon, for example, has additional education under his belt, and you’ll have added peace of mind.

  1. How many implants have you placed?

Whether you and your dentist agree on mini implants or traditional implants as the smartest choice, experience matters as much as training. Sure, everyone has to start somewhere, but when it comes to surgical procedures, especially, you likely don’t want to end up as a novice’s practice patient. Dentists who specialize in implant placement typically perform dozens of procedures each year.

  1. Do you have before-and-after photos?

We’re not talking about generic stock photos or images from industry publications here. Ask your dentist to see before-and-after photos of his own patients to help in the assessment of the practitioner’s skills. A good dentist will be happy to oblige and show you photos of actual patients to highlight his or her success stories. And don’t be shy to ask for success rates as well. How many implants had to be removed or replaced after initial placement?

  1. What brand of dental implants do you use?

As is so often true, you get what you pay for. This also applies to the quality of dental implants. Some manufacturers have invested decades of research in perfecting their products, while others produce low-cost (and possibly low-quality!) lookalikes. Be sure to do your homework!

Traditional Implants are Almost Always the Best Option:

When it comes to replacing missing teeth, there really isn’t anything quite like a dental implant. They don’t require you to have the adjacent teeth altered (such as filing them down for a bridge) or the reliance on a removable denture. Best of all, full-size implants are strong enough to support multiple crowns, whether it’s one or an All-on-4 permanent denture.

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