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


Advantages of Mini Dental Implants

Mini-implants have all the advantages of implants in general, but, as their name implies, they are smaller.  Because of their smaller size, they require more precision in planning, preparation and placement in order to ensure they fuse with bone of adequate density over the correct surface areas and to ensure that they distribute the load properly.  Once properly planned, however, the procedure itself is relatively short and simple.

a.  Even patients who may have been told they are not candidates for conventional implants can get excellent, high performing results from this approach using 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 4 to 6 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.

b.  The mini-implant procedure is relatively simple, takes only 1-2 hours, is basically painless with just local anesthetic, and healing time is short.  Any discomfort from the procedure usually passes within 48 hours and often there is little discomfort 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 standard 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 have 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.

And the new, more advanced micro-surgical protocols are much more affordable than the old conventional procedure. 

c.  Mini-implants can also be used right away – to hold a tooth or a set of teeth, to eat with – in other words, you can go on with your life as if you had your own natural teeth right after the procedure.  The old 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 load.  So you have to wait several months, usually 3-6, 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.

d.  One of the greatest benefits of mini-implants is that they make having permanent replacement teeth that look and feel just like your own natural teeth available to so many more people who need them.  We’ve already discussed how their kinder impact on gum tissues and bone make them available to those, including many elderly, who could not tolerate the larger standard implants.  But that’s not the whole story – mini-implants are also so much more affordable than standard implants.

The smaller size, simpler, quicker and less invasive procedure, and fewer complications translate into cost savings.  Though the procedure must be planned well, the actual time spent with the dentist to prepare you for the procedure, to do the procedure, and to monitor for and handle any complications, is much less, cutting costs considerably.

e.  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.  

f.  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.

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.

Indeed, even outside of the dental field, mini-implants and further advances in keyhole surgery and other minimal surgical techniques for a wide variety of medical conditions are likely to expand greatly in the next decade, improving outcomes and making life-saving or life-enhancing treatments safer for more patients.

Of course, all of the benefits of standard implants discussed elsewhere also apply to mini-implants.  Minis also 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.

SUMMARY OF KEY BENEFITS OF MINI-IMPLANTS

Shorter Healing Time

Healing time is reduced from months to days.

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.

More Convenient

Usually, everything can be done in one visit.  And most of our patients can eat normally the same afternoon.

Less Bone Required

Usually, there’s no need for additional costly bone grafts.

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.

More Affordable

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

Disadvantages of Mini-Implants

When used properly, mini-implants have few or no disadvantages compared to the older, conventional implants.  Most of the bad results that have occurred over the years since first introduced have come from poorly planned or poorly executed placements.

Though some practitioners may still advise you that mini-implants are not as good as larger implants, or that they are only good for temporary fixes, the fact is that problems with mini-implants almost always come from a poor understanding of load distribution, bite pattern (occlusion), or lateral forces.

The smaller diameter implants seemed to many clinicians easier to place than standard implants, and they were attracted to the smaller investment required to add mini-implant procedures to their practice.  It is true that mini-implants require fewer steps, less equipment and fewer tools, and don’t involve cutting away the gums, excavating bone with burrs and the potential of months of difficult healing and complications.  So a large number of new clinicians entered the implant field.

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 likewise 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.

However, there are some cases where mini-implants are not appropriate.  These depend on a number of issues such as 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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