According to the American College of Prosthodontists, around 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. About 40 million Americans are missing all of their teeth.
Luckily for us, the technology has advanced enough that we can have new teeth looking just like the natural ones, with perfectly placed dental implants. But the procedure for regular dental implants is long, painful, and costly.
In come the mini dental implants.
What are mini dental implants? Mini dental implants are just like regular implants, but smaller. This small change in size creates advantages and disadvantages. They’re less invasive and more affordable, but they’re also less durable, and may not be the best choice for a single tooth replacement.
Generally, mini dental implants are not designed to support individual crowns, which is the main reason they fail. The most common application is to stabilize an overdenture. However, they can still be a decent option if certain requirements are met.
We’re all familiar with traditional dental implants. We use them to replace one or several teeth or to hold removable dentures in place. They have a very high success rate of 98%.
Now, mini dental implants work the same, but they’re much smaller. They are easily inserted and less invasive but can take smaller pressure than the regular ones. They also have a slightly lower success rate.
Which ones are better? Are mini implants worth it?
Let’s take a look.
What Are Mini Dental Implants?
Make no mistake, mini dental implants are a permanent tooth replacement option.
They can be a good solution for your missing tooth or several teeth due to damage, decay, or accident. They can be installed in a single appointment, and you can be back home in a few hours mowing your lawn or watching a soccer game.
They are just like the regular ones, replacing one tooth, several teeth or acting as an anchor for dentures. However, they don’t require bone grafting and they require a fraction of healing time compared to traditional dental implants.
For many years, we’ve only had traditional dental implants, but now we also have mini dental implants, for specific needs, narrow space for teeth, and certain jawbone types.
They are also more affordable.
The reason why mini dental implants might be a good choice for you is that you may lack the bone mass in your jaw to support the traditional implant. They are easier and less painful to install and tend to require only a single appointment. Hard to believe, but they can be placed in one single visit with local anesthesia.
Who Is a Candidate for Mini Dental Implants?
You’re a good candidate for mini dental implants if:
- the tooth that needs replacement was small
- the area for the implant is narrow
- it wasn’t the upper tooth or molar that does the bulk of the chewing
- you don’t have a history of grinding your teeth
- you have a sufficient vertical jawbone length
- you don’t want to undergo invasive surgery
- you don’t have enough bone in the jaw for a full-sized implant
- you have Osteoporosis
Sometimes, you don’t need to fulfill all of these points, and your prosthodontist will suggest to you the best options for you to choose.
What you don’t want, is to risk the future fail of an implant. If it fails, you need to pay again to get it fixed, costing you more in the long term (money and health-wise). If an implant fails terribly, it may get painful and you would want to avoid that. And to avoid that, you would want to consult your dental professional and think carefully about whether a mini dental implant is a right choice to replace a tooth.
However, mini dental implants are a great way to use them as an anchor for dentures. It takes 2 to 4 implants to act as an anchor for overdentures, and they will hold your dentures affixed so it doesn’t move, or god forbid, fall out in public. This is what we mostly use mini dental implants for and they do the job well.
Mini implant dentures allow for more natural use of the tooth in terms of eating, biting, and chewing. This can give you a huge confidence boost because you’re no longer worrying about your dentures moving, or coming out in public.
How Much Do Mini Dental Implants Cost?
The average cost of mini dental implants is between $500 and $1500 for a single implant.
You can get multiple teeth replaced, and the cost would be equal to the number of implants multiplied by the average price. Therefore, you get $1000 to $3000 for two implants, $2000 to $6000 for four implants, and so on, depending on your local prices.
To get your dentures affixed with implants, it would cost you about the same per implant. For example, if you would want to get your dentures affixed with two implants would cost you about $1000 to $2000 for the implants, and about $1500 for a new complete denture. That’s just an estimate. For comparison, to get them affixed with two traditional implants would cost you about $6000 to $8000 (two implants, plus the abutments, plus the dentures).
On average, mini dental implants cost between one-half and one-quarter as much as traditional dental implants.
Therefore, mini dental implants are more affordable than regular implants. Since you don’t need expensive bone grafts, it lessens the overall cost of mini dental implants and mini implant dentures.
However, you should consider mini implants carefully if the price is the most important factor for you. Try to take good care of your mini implants, and work towards maintaining your periodontal health, so you can enjoy them for years to come.
Studies mentioned below show that you could reduce your future expenditure on mini dental implants by taking care of them, and your health. If you don’t, they could fail and cost you even more in the long term because you’ll need to fix or replace them.
How Long Do Mini Dental Implants Last?
Mini dental implants generally last for years.
According to a study in 2016 on 60 dental patients, where 2/3 got mini dental implants and 1/3 got regular dental implants, after one year the mini dental implant success rates were 100%. The general satisfaction was higher in the groups with mini dental implants, compared to traditional ones.
Since mini dental implants haven’t been around for a long time, there isn’t much data available to determine a more accurate timeframe on durability. Some dentists will recommend regular implants over mini implants for a single tooth replacement, and mini implants only to stabilize an overdenture.
However, even with that in mind, many people would prefer mini dental implants. It may still be the best choice for you, because of the bone structure of your jaw, the bone mass, and the available space in your mouth, not to mention the simplicity of the procedure.
The longer you wait to replace a missing tooth after it is lost, the more bone is lost. If too much bone is lost, you may not be able to get traditional dental implants, but only mini dental implants. So, if you lose a tooth, go to a prosthodontist as soon as possible to have more options available to you (assuming you can afford all the options).
Keeping your periodontal health in good condition will prolong your mini dental implant lifespan. Smoking, alcohol, bone diseases, and lack of dental care can negatively affect the lifespan of your dental implants.
Disadvantages of Mini Dental Implants
The main disadvantage of mini dental implants is that they can’t take as much pressure as the regular ones.
According to a study in 2016, on 40 patients after one year the mini dental implant success rates were 100%. Plus, the general satisfaction was higher in the groups with mini dental implants. This was one single year, not a long time.
An older study in 2012 on around 6000 mini implants showed the average failure rate for mini implants to be 14.4 months. Meaning, they start to move or bend. This doesn’t sound great, 14.4 months is not a long time, but remember this was 2012, for a study that lasted 12 years. That means, two decades have passed since then. It’s heavily outdated, and medical science keeps moving forward and improving.
Generally, the consensus among dentists is that mini dental implants are a good choice to use in supporting fixed and removable prosthetics, but not always the best choice in replacing a single tooth.
One thing is certain: if you can get regular dental implants instead of mini dental implants – go for it. Mini dental implants aren’t designed to support individual crowns, especially not to replace the tooth you use a lot. They can get the job done for some time, but the durability is not very high.
Whether mini dental implants will fail depends on how good of a job the dental professional did, the type of tooth it replaced, your bone structure, how much have you taken care of your health, and other factors. To minimize the risk of a job poorly done, the best advice is to get a specialist to do the job (prosthodontist), rather than a DP (dental professional). Although, in most cases, DPs can do the job just as well.
If your mini dental implants fail, it can cause further complications health-wise, and they could cost you more down the road because you’ll need to replace them again. Choose carefully.
Mini Dental Implants vs Traditional Implants
There are several advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional dental implants.
First, the physical difference. Mini dental implants are a one-piece titanium screw, whereas the traditional implant is made out of two parts, the implant, and the abutment.
This makes mini dental implants easier to install using a simpler procedure. Unlike traditional implants, which may require several appointments that last for months, mini dental implants tend to require one single appointment. There are fewer risks of complications with mini dental implants, and you can recover more quickly (24 hours to several days). Traditional implants require three to six months for your jaw and mouth to heal.
Mini dental implants are smaller, which makes them less invasive. They can be installed in a single visit, and unlike standard dental implants, mini dental implants don’t require bone grafts. This is a good option for people who delayed replacing a missing tooth and experienced a loss of bone tissue.
They are also more affordable and cost several times less than traditional dental implants, about $500-$1500 compared to $1500-$6000 for traditional dental implants.
However, because they are smaller, they can’t handle as much pressure as traditional-sized dental implants. If placed poorly, or used heavily, they could bend or fail to require you to fix or replace them later on. This can make them less affordable in the long term.
Mini dental implants are sometimes the “only” option, compared to the regular ones. There may not be enough space in your mouth to fit the regular implant, so the mini implant may be your only choice. There may not be enough bone mass, due to delayed replacement of a tooth, so the only mini implant will work.
Are mini dental implants as good as regular ones?
- In terms of durability, mini dental implants generally aren’t as good. This is because they can’t take as much pressure as the regular ones. However, they are still a good option for people who don’t have sufficient bone mass to get the regular ones.
- In terms of simplicity, procedure, and time to heal mini dental implants are better. Traditional dental implants require complex surgery and three to six months to heal. Whereas, mini dental implants tend to require one simple procedure, and only a few days to heal.
- Functionally, mini dental implants are as good as the regular ones, but they are not generally designed to support individual crowns. They are mostly used to stabilize the overdentures or to replace a tooth for people with insufficient bone mass for a regular implant.
Pros and Cons of Mini Dental Implants
Here are the pros and cons of mini dental implants for you to consider in determining the best choice for yourself.
The pros of mini dental implants:
- Simpler to install and less invasive. They don’t require a complex surgery or multiple appointments and can fit in smaller spaces to replace smaller teeth like incisors or premolars.
- Less painful. They don’t require painful bone grafts or prescription painkillers. You can just get over-the-counter medications to help alleviate the pain which doesn’t last for long.
- More affordable. Mini dental implants cost between $500 and $1500.
- They prevent bone deterioration, or for those who lack the bone jaw for traditional dental implants.
- They prevent further bone loss.
- Good choice to stabilize the overdentures.
The cons of mini dental implants:
- They can’t handle much pressure consistently. They aren’t generally designed to replace a single tooth (especially not the one that does the majority of chewing), but rather to affix an overdenture.