Dental Implants Metal Allergy
A dental implant is one of the best ways to restore one or more missing teeth. Dental implants are generally made of titanium but other options are available to patients who may suffer from metal allergies. Patients who have a titanium allergy are extremely rare, occurring and only about 0.6% of the population. In any case, patients with metal allergies may wonder if they are able to receive a dental implant. In most cases, anyone with a metal allergy can still receive a dental implant.
The most common material for dental implants is pure titanium or titanium alloy (a compound of two or more metals), which are biocompatible to bone and encourage bone regeneration, allowing for great osseointegration. These metals are similar to the material used in knee and hip replacements.
A dental implant is the closest thing to a natural tooth in modern dentistry because an implant replaces the entire structure of a tooth. The implant itself is a prosthetic tooth root and a prosthetic tooth crown (the portion of a tooth that is visible above the gum line) is affixed onto the implant. An allergy is the body's immune system overreacting to a foreign substance. An allergy can be as inconsequential as a minor rash or as life-threatening as the body's organ systems shutting down. A person can be allergic to anything, including metals.
How does a metal allergy affect dental implants?
A mental allergy can stand in the way of a patient receiving a traditional dental implant. 13% of people have a sensitivity to nickel, cobalt, or chromium, all of which have the highest prevalence of metal allergies. An allergy to an implant is suspected when there is chronic inflammation and/or a rash around the implant. While it is not unheard of, dental materials have a very low chance of side effects. If you are concerned about a potential model allergy, your physician or allergist can perform a skin test to ensure the safety of the implant’s compatibility with your body.
Typically, metal allergies are specific to particular metals. For example, about 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel while smaller percentages are allergic to cobalt or chromium. The most common allergic reaction to metals occurs from external contact on the skin with jewelry or other items such as belt buckles and clasps on clothing that create rashes or other anomalies on the skin. An allergy to metal in a body part replacement could result in the body rejecting the part.
Testing For Titanium Allergy
There is a type of blood test that isolates your white blood cells, exposes them to titanium and measures the immune system response to the titanium. This is a MELISA test, which can be performed before you receive a dental implant. Some common symptoms of a titanium allergy to a dental implant include Hives and bumps in the mouth, dry patches of gum tissue, inflammation in the gum tissue around the implant, and sores or swelling in oral soft tissues.
Other metal allergies that have also played an important role in dental care include amalgam. Dental amalgam is a mixture of precious metals such as gold or silver, combined with metals like copper, 10, and even mercury. While dental amalgam has been safely used for decades for dental fillings, there have been rare cases of inflammation or rashes indicating an allergy.
Are there alternatives to titanium implants available?
Titanium has a unique ability to permanently bond with natural bone structure. This biocompatibility was discovered in the 1950s and was first used to create a dental implant in the 1960s. Osseointegration is a fusion between bone and implants. With proper care and maintenance, an implant will become a natural part of your mouth which is why titanium is the preferred material for most dental implants. Titanium is widely used in medical and dental applications because of that special affinity with bone. Bone cells readily grow and attach to the metal which strengthens the bond between the implant in the jaw bone, creating a stable and secure foundation for a dental implant.
Fortunately, for patients that do have metal allergies that include titanium, zirconia implants can be used in place of titanium. Zirconia is a ceramic material that can be used to fabricate not only the implant but the abutment and crown. Zirconia is a great option for dental implants with benefits that include:
- Biocompatibility comparable to titanium
- Resistant to corrosion
- Strong and durable
- Aesthetically pleasing
- More hygienic than titanium due to less plaque accumulation on the implant
Advances in modern dental materials and technology have created zirconia implants that make it possible for patients with metal allergies to receive dental implants as a way to restore missing teeth! This type of implant was first developed in 1987 and is now widely used by dentists. This non-metal ceramic material is ideal for patients who have exhibited symptoms of metal allergies to materials such as titanium.
Zirconia is not as strong as titanium but it is still able to withstand most abuses that dental implants incur. Zirconia is resistant to corrosion, has great biocompatibility with bone, and is very strong and durable. If you are interested in dental implants but are concerned about metal allergies, zirconia implants may be a great option for you!
Dental Implant Alternatives
Even though a patient may express interest in a dental implant, depending on their individual case and health history, they may be better served with a dental bridge. While it is extremely rare, it is possible for a person to be allergic not only to titanium, but also zirconia. A dental bridge can be a great option for patients who are unable to receive a dental implant. A dental bridge is constructed of two crowns attached to a fake tooth. The crowns are cemented onto the neighboring teeth of the space and the fake tooth fills the gap.
Even if you are a patient who has a rare allergy to certain metals, you more than likely will still be able to enjoy the multitude of benefits of a dental implant with a zirconia implant. Speak with your dentist to see if you are a candidate for dental implants and which type will be best for you!