Mini dental implants became popular 20 years ago and have been marketed as a cheaper solution to traditional dental implants. Below, we’ll talk about what exactly mini implants are and how they compare to traditional dental implants.
Mini dental implants are small prosthetics that can be used to replace damaged, failing, or missing teeth. A small, toothpick-sized implant is placed into the jaw, and the new tooth is held in place with a rubber O-ring. Mini implants can be used to replace teeth, or they can be used as the anchor for snap-in dentures.
Mini implants can be used on the upper jaw, either to replace teeth or to serve as the base for anchored dentures. Your oral surgeon will need to take special steps to ensure that your mini implants are firmly placed into the upper jaw.
There are a couple of differences between mini dental implants and traditional regular dental implants. First, as the name would suggest, they differ in size. The implant screw on regular dental implants is much thicker, while the screw for mini dental implants is very thin (about the size of a toothpick). This makes them far more unstable than traditional dental implants.
Mini dental implants are also a single piece. The screw connects directly with the fake tooth through a rubber O-ring. Regular dental implants are typically two distinct pieces: the strong implant screw on the bottom, and the fake tooth or teeth attached to an abutment on top. This will make the actual tooth size larger than mini dental implants.
Finally, mini dental implants are much less durable than regular implants. The rubber O-ring on mini dental implants is prone to wear out over time and will need to be replaced to keep your tooth stable. This is especially true if the mini dental implant is used as an anchor for anchored dentures.
With the advancement of oral and dental care, mini implants are rarely recommended due to their quality issues. While some dentists might recommend mini dental implants because the surgery is simpler to perform, the flaws and safety concerns of mini dental implants far outweigh the benefits. This style of implants is never recommended by experienced oral surgeons, and you should be wary of dentists or oral surgeons who hard-sell mini implants over other proven options, like traditional dental implants.
Never. With the flaws of mini dental implants (namely, how easily they deteriorate and need to be replaced) and high failure rate, patients should not get mini dental implants. Traditional dental implants are always a better option, even if you need a bone graft to help support the titanium screws.
A single mini dental implant usually costs between $1,000 – $1,500, with a whole row of mini dental implants costing around $5,000 – $7,500. This cost can vary depending on which specific oral surgeon you meet with, and the specific materials used for the fake tooth. This cost does not include mini dental implants in the upper jaw, which can be a more complicated procedure, and therefore more expensive.
The procedure for mini dental implants is similar to traditional implants, but it is generally a faster, shorter, less invasive option. First, after any necessary teeth have been removed, the mini dental implant screws are placed into the jawbone. The implant screw is placed straight through your gums (as opposed to cutting the gums open to reveal the jawbone).
The mini dental implant is secured in place with a ratchet, and the fake tooth is connected on top with a rubber O-ring. If you are getting mini dental implants as denture anchors, you may receive temporary prosthetics while a fitting lab makes sure that your dentures will fit onto your newly placed mini dental implants.
The short-term effects of mini dental implants are fairly mild. The surgery is less invasive, smaller screws are implanted into the bone, and the procedure is generally quick, which means your recovery time will generally be fast. Patients can still expect mild swelling, light bleeding, and mild pain the week after the surgery, but these symptoms are mild and are resolved quickly.
The long-term effects of mini dental implants will cause complications for the patient. The rubber O-rings are prone to degrade, and it’s common for the mini implant to lose fusion with your jawbone and fall out. Mini implants are a failed product, and while they were originally advertised as a permanent solution, we now know that the vast majority of mini implants will only last a few years.
We’ve touched on some of the drawbacks of mini dental implants already, and below are some additional issues worth reviewing:
While it’s rare to see mini implants as a standalone implant, the usage of multiple mini implants as anchors for dentures is more common; however, given their failure rate, patients are still better off using traditional dental implants for snap-in dentures.
While traditional dental implants have great longevity and durability, less is known about the durability of mini dental implants. They’re often sold as permanent solutions, but there are several significant failure points that mini dental implants have that traditional implants do not. The rubber O-ring that holds the new tooth in place can degrade and fail, and the small size of the teeth are often not suitable for patients with naturally larger teeth. From our own experience, mini implants are not recommended because of the very high failure rate compared to traditional implants.
If you need multiple teeth, or an entire row of teeth, replaced your best bet is the all-on-4 dental implant procedure, which uses four traditional strong titanium implants to secure an entire arch of zirconia teeth. This treatment will last a lifetime and is a far superior option than using mini implants to replace multiple teeth.
Once your mini dental implants have been placed and your mouth has fully healed, mini dental implants don’t have a special regimen of care. You’ll still need to brush your teeth daily, floss, use a mouth rinse, and see a dentist for regular cleanings and checkups.
There are behaviors you’ll want to avoid, too. Alcohol abuse and tobacco use will make it more likely for mini dental implants to fail, and it will be very important to avoid these behaviors since mini dental implants are more susceptible to failure.
While mini implants have been marketed as “lasting a lifetime,” they are far less effective than traditional implants and often fail within a few years. In general, mini dental implants will last upwards of a few years before failure becomes more likely. Given their failure rate, rarely will doctors recommend them. If longevity is a primary focus, traditional dental implants is a more secure, long-lasting permanent option.
Mini dental implants only create mild discomfort in the days following their placement. Placing mini dental implants is not very invasive (for example, the gums won’t need to be cut open and stitched back together and the implants are very thin), so the recovery usually only contains mild symptoms, like mild swelling and general soreness. Recovery is similar to receiving traditional dental implants.
If you’re considering mini implants just because you’re concerned about traditional dental implants, we encourage you to speak to an oral surgeon about your options.
Traditional implants are objectively better than mini implants. Mini implants will deteriorate and fail with a few years, while traditional implants are permanent (when performed by a skilled oral surgeon)
Some patients may have a few roadblocks to traditional dental implants. In rare instances, the jawbone doesn’t have enough mass to support traditional implant screws. An oral surgeon can perform a bone graft to make sure that the dental implants will stay anchored. Even with the complication of a bone graft, traditional implants are still a far better option than mini implants.
Regular implants offer significant benefits. For starters, there is a decent amount of research on traditional dental implants that details their longevity and permanence. Mini dental implants have far less research supporting how long they will last on average, and most dental offices state that they may only last a few years.
Traditional dental implants also offer a more secure attachment without pressure issues. If you need an entire row of teeth replaced, the best option is the all-on-4 dental implants procedure, which we specialize in.
Yes, mini implants’ failure rate is much higher than traditional implants. One such study showed that mini dental implants can have a failure rate as high as 10%, which is significantly higher than the failure rate for traditional dental implants. Another study showed that 8% of mini dental implants will fail within the first 3.5 years of placement.