For the past generation or two most implants were a combination of a metal post and a ceramic tooth. Previously this meant a titanium post and a porcelain replica tooth. For the past few years the porcelain replica has been replaced by lithium disilicate for the front teeth (stronger than porcelain and natural looking) or ziriconia for the back molars (even stronger, but not looking as realistic). The technology has moved again, with the metal post now becoming obsolete. Implants can now be made entirely from ceramic material.
All ceramic implants have a few advantages.
- They can be made completely translucent, with no fear of a metal post becoming visible.
- They can be made thinner so as to fit into a smaller space. This is an advantage for some people who do not have enough room in their mouth to accommodate a larger implant.
- The ceramic material is biocompatible, so the natural gum can grow back alongside the tooth.
- There is virtually no issue with the tooth being sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.
- There is no risk of allergic reaction. This would occasionally occur with some patients who were allergic to nickel (in stainless steel) or other metals.
One of the main advantages of titanium implants was osseointegration. This meant that the titanium post would biologically fuse to the jawbone, making for a very strong bond. A similar process has been obtained with ziriconia implants; ziriconia implants with a roughened surfaces will also fuse to the jawbone, so the advantage obtained with titanium is also achieved with the new all ceramic (ziriconia) implants.
Tried and true technology that has proved reliable will often continue to be used even when new options are available. Many people continued to use gold crowns long after porcelain became available. But the new technology will find its market and become mainstream over time. People with metal allergies will have to use all ceramic implants because they have no other option. And if these all ceramic implants prove to be a good long term options then they will come to replace many older types of implant.