The pros and cons of mini-implants: dispelling some common myths

It can seem confusing at times when you are trying to determine which dental procedure is right for you. Maybe you lost a tooth, or maybe you lost several, and you need to fully understand your long-term options. You may review a pamphlet you picked up at the dentist’s office, do a global search on the Internet or maybe even ask a close friend for advice. While you have heard mini-implants are the wave of the future and are often a better choice than a bridge or dentures, how do you know this particular procedure is right for you?

First, you need to schedule a consultation with a reputable dentist with extensive experience in mini implant surgery. Dr. Dean Wright, founder of Cambridge Family Dentistry, is one of the pioneers of mini implant usage and can help explain the pros and cons of surgery while dispelling any myths. In addition to serving on the advisory board for 3M, the manufacturer of the Imtec mini implant, Dr. Wright is so prominent in this field, dentists from across the nation come to Cambridge Family Dentistry to observe and learn his implant techniques.

Dr. Wright and his staff not only offer a free consultation and second opinion, they guarantee their results. With six full-time doctors, a dynamic staff and 20 treatment rooms, Cambridge is one of the largest and most up-to-date, family-friendly dental clinics in the country.

Let’s review the pros and cons of mini dental implants:

PROS

No need for complex flap surgery
Mini-implants have all the advantages of implants in general, but, as their name implies, they are smaller and can be placed without complex flap surgery.

Less invasive procedure with shorter healing time
Mini implants do not require surgery like dentures so the prosthetic tooth can be loaded within hours and the healing process is much faster. Healing time is reduced from months to days.

No need for bone grafts
There’s usually no need for additional costly bone grafts.

Less Discomfort
Less disturbance to bone and tissue means most patients need only over-the-counter pain medication, if any, for a day or so after the procedure.

Convenient
Typically the procedure can be completed in one visit and most of our patients can eat normally the same afternoon.

Comfortable
Unlike dentures, mini implants do not slip or feel awkward. They can be used, however, to realign and improve dentures.

Prevents facial collapse
Since the mini implant is fixed in your jawbone like a tooth root, it prevents facial collapse that can occur with bone loss.

Fewer Complications
Mini dental implant failures and complications are rare and even rarer for Cambridge patients due to the techniques and protocols our team of doctors have refined over many years.

Affordable
With Cambridge’s mini dental implant protocol, the typical cost of implant treatment has been reduced by about 65% or more.

CONS

Vertical bone requirement
Since the mini implants require bones to support them, they cannot be used in an area of the jaw with inadequate vertical bone or if there has been too much bone loss.

Teeth Grinding
You might not be a good candidate for mini dental implants if you grind your teeth regularly as it may wear them down prematurely.

Let’s dispel some of the common myths often associated with mini implants

MYTH: If you aren’t a candidate for conventional implants you cannot install mini implants
Even patients who may have been told they are not candidates for conventional implants can get excellent, high-performing results from mini-implants. For example, a patient who did not have sufficient bone thickness to accept a couple large implants to anchor a full plate can get a structurally-superior solution by distributing the load evenly among four to six mini-implants.  And because only a small pilot bit is used to create the opening for the implant to be threaded into the bone, even very elderly or infirm patients can often benefit from this short and simple procedure.

MYTH: It takes a long time to recover from both conventional implant and mini implants surgery
The mini-implant procedure is relatively simple: it is performed with local anesthetic, takes only one to two hours, is basically painless and healing time is short. Any discomfort from the procedure usually passes within 48 hours and often there is little soreness at all.  Most patients can go ahead and eat a couple hours after the surgery.

These aren’t just superficial advantages. Because the procedure is much less-invasive and traumatic with much less disturbance to the bone and gum tissues than the procedure for standard implants, long healing times aren’t necessary and many complications can be avoided.  In addition, people who aren’t good candidates for conventional implant surgery can have great results because minis don’t require so much tissue and bone to be cut away from the jaw.

So if you’ve been told you can’t enjoy the advantages of implants because the extensive surgery required is too risky for you, or because of issues like bone thickness or density or underlying complicating factors like diabetes, now you can have natural feeling and functioning teeth again with mini-implants.

MYTH: It takes a long time for life to get back to normal after receiving mini dental implants
The microsurgical approach perfected by Cambridge’s team of doctors over the past dozen years or so eliminates or drastically reduces almost all the obstacles, including cost and interruption of the patients normal life activities, formerly associated with the old conventional implants and allows more patients to benefit, including those previously told they couldn’t have implants at any price because of the complications of the old surgery.

Mini-implants can be used right away – you can go on with your life as if you had your own natural teeth right after the procedure. Conventional implants, on the other hand, require cutting away the gums to expose the jawbone, then using a series of burrs to excavate a large hole in the bone into which the implant is placed. Over time, the bone grows into the implant, so it can handle the load.  So you have to wait several months, usually three to six, until the bone grows tight around and fuses with the implant.

But minis work in a different way. Because their diameter is smaller, the torque forces needed to install them under compression are tolerable to the surrounding bone, which may in turn be sturdier because very little bone has been removed compared to with standard implants.  Therefore, the lower portion of the threaded root-replacement part of the implant is designed to actually screw tight into the bone from the beginning and is secure and stable enough to put under load without causing pain or jeopardizing the long-term performance.

MYTH: Mini implants will feel awkward in my mouth
One of the greatest benefits of mini-implants is that they look and feel just like your own natural teeth. We’ve already discussed how their kinder impact on gum tissues and bone make them available to people, including many elderly, who maybe could not tolerate the larger standard implants.

MYTH: Dental implants are too expensive
Another plus: the new, more advanced micro-surgical protocols are much more affordable than the old conventional procedure. 

Since they are smaller and the procedure is quicker and less invasive with fewer chances for complications, mini-implants are more cost-effective. While the procedure does require time for planning, the actual time spent with the dentist to prepare you for the procedure, complete the procedure, and to monitor for and handle any complications, is much less, which cuts costs considerably.

As a result, mini-implants generally cost 1/2 or even 1/4 the cost of standard implants. On average, they are about 1/3 the cost. At Cambridge, we aim to get the cost down closer to the 1/4 mark and offer payment plans so that more people can benefit from their truly life-changing advantages. We’re especially conscious of this considering the current tight economic times and the fact that some insurers have limited coverage for implants.

And not only is the mini-implant procedure itself far less-expensive, it also usually does away with the costly, painful and time-consuming bone grafts that are sometimes necessary with traditional implants.

MYTH: Mini implants aren’t a long-term solution
Mini implants preserve oral health, including gum health and healthy bone, better than other types of replacement teeth.  And for patients who are uncomfortable wearing dentures, the knowledge that their teeth aren’t going to fall out while they are eating is invaluable.

MYTH: There are disadvantages to installing mini dental implants
When installed properly, mini-implants have little to no disadvantages compared to the older, conventional implants. As with any procedure, most disadvantages are the result of poor planning or inexperienced practitioners.

Though some dentists may continue to promote larger, conventional implants and reserve mini-implants for temporary fixes, any issues associated with mini-implants almost always are the result from a poor understanding on the practitioner of load distribution, bite pattern (occlusion), or lateral forces.

When mini-implants became popular, too many clinicians were attracted to the small investment required need to add mini-implant procedures to their practice. And because mini-implants require fewer steps, less equipment and fewer tools, too many clinicians jumped into the mini-implant field without the knowledge and experience needed.

Unfortunately, many of them didn’t realize that mini-implants require just as much planning, expertise, attention to detail and precision as conventional implants. In particular, a force analysis that takes into account issues of bite-pattern is essential to ensure the success of certain applications.  Care in prosthetic design and fitting is equally important.

As we have proven at Cambridge, when these factors are properly analyzed and an optimized plan is executed, mini-implants have an excellent track record of performance and durability.

There are a few instances when mini-implants are not the appropriate choice for one of our patients such as issues with bone-density and the forces, especially lateral forces that may apply in a certain situation. In those cases, we may evaluate the patient for a conventional standard implant procedure.

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